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DP11611 | Two Blades of Grass: The Impact of the Green Revolution

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We examine the impact of the Green Revolution, defined as the diffusion of high-yielding crop varieties (HYVs), on aggregate economic outcomes in developing countries during the second half of the 20th century. We use time variation in the development and diffusion of HYVs of 10 major crops, and the spatial variation in agro-climatically suitability for growing them, to identify the causal effects of adoption. In a sample of 84 counties, we estimate that a 10 percentage points increase in HYV adoption increases GDP per capita by about 15 percent. This effect is fully accounted for by a combination of the direct effect on crop yields, factor adjustment in agriculture, and structural transformation. Our analysis also reveals that the Green Revolution reduced fertility and that the reduction was only partly offset by decreasing mortality rates. The net effect on population growth was therefore negative.