Farewell to Hunger: Green Revolution of Rice and Health in China

Abstract

The widespread adoption of rice semi-dwarf varieties in 1960s led to a green revolution in China’s agricultural sector. This paper examined the effect of this event on health based on detailed county-level population data. We find after the adoption of high-yielding rice varieties, the counties with higher proportion of rice experienced a larger increase in grain yield per hectare. This progress of grain production caused by high-yielding rice varieties significantly reduced mortality rate. Besides, by exploiting the spatial discontinuity in the adoption of high-yielding rice varieties at the boundary between the pioneering provinces and the other provinces, we confirm the beneficial health effects of the green revolution. Finally, we examined how grain procurement adjusted to the grain yield increase. We find grain procurement showed a larger absolute increase in the counties benefited more from the green revolution. But the procurement rate remained unchanged. Therefore, grain retained by the rural population grew after the green revolution.

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