20080903 Econ 113 Lecture: Amerindians, Conquistadores, Explorers, Settlers, and Empires, 10000 BC to 1800
Growth Accounting in Pre-Industrial America

20080903 Malthusian Economy Problem Set

Due at lecture, Wednesday September 10:

  1. Why do we think that for most of the period from 12000 BC to 1492, most of the Amerindian population was, by our standards, quite poor?

  2. Suppose that an unpressured human population grows at an average rate of 3% per year, that colonization starts with 1000 humans in 12000 BC, and that the carrying capacity of the Americas with hunter-gatherer technologies is 10 million. What is the latest date at which the Amerindian population could possibly have been thought of as unconstrained by Malthusian scarcity?

  3. Suppose that the Europeans had landed as they did around 1500, but also suppose that the Amerindians: had been lucky and better organized, had destroyed Cortes's expedition and those of a few more conquistadores, and had confined Spanish settlement to the islands and a few coastal enclaves like Vera Cruz. In this counterfactual history the plagues would still have decimated the Amerindian population--say, reduced it from 50 million to 5 million. But then it would have been in a Malthusian unstressed state, growing at 3% per year, and people would have built up immunity. About how many years after 1500 would it have taken before the Amerindian population would have grown back up to 25 million or so?

  4. Provide three potential partial explanations for why it is that pre-industrial hunter-gatherer populations appear healthier than pre-industrial settled-agriculture populations.

  5. Is the general level of rents likely to be low or high when land is abundant? Is the general standard of living likely to be low or high?