What comes first, agricultural growth or democracy?


  • Lilyan E. Fulginiti

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    1. Department of Agricultural Economics, University of Nebraska, 307C Filley Hall, Dept. of Agricultural Economics, UNL, Lincoln, NE 68583-0922, USA
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*Corresponding author. Tel.: (402) 472-0651; fax: (402) 472-3460. E-mail address: lfulginiti@unl.edu (L. E. Fulginiti). Project supported by Hatch grant number NEB 138, USDA Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service.


Today, the international community faces two major development challenges: how to ignite growth and how to establish democracy. Economic research has identified two plausible hypotheses regarding this association. The first hypothesis emphasizes the need to start with democracy and institutions that secure property rights. The second hypothesis emphasizes the need to start with physical and human capital accumulation. In this article, we discuss some of the econometric evidence on the relationship between institutions, human capital, and agricultural productivity growth across developed and developing countries with the objective of finding support for one or the other hypothesis. We find that most variables used in the literature to capture the effect of institutions are not independent of the process of growth. While no evidence of causation from political institutions to agricultural productivity growth is found, human capital accumulation emerges as an important source of growth.