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date: 24 January 2022

Abstract and Keywords

In developing economies, cropland area has continued to expand at the expense of forests, wetlands, and other natural areas. Much of the rural poor—who are growing in number—are concentrated in ecologically fragile and remote areas. The resulting dualistic frontier economy contains a traditional agricultural sector dependent on abundant marginal land and a traded primary products sector that converts scarce natural resources. A model of this economy shows that, as long as there are abundant marginal lands for cultivation, they serve to absorb rural migrants, population increases, and displaced unskilled labor from elsewhere in the economy. Expanding commercial activities that exploit more resources and land will absorb more workers from marginal frontier lands. Although the latter outcome may seem beneficial, it has the tendency to promote boom and bust cycles of economic development.

Keywords: boom and bust, cropland, developing economies, frontier economy, marginal land, natural resources, primary products

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