Capital Accumulation and Structural Transformation

Journal Article
Published on 3 January 2020

The open access article is available here at The Quarterly Journal of Economics.


Several scholars argue that high agricultural productivity can retard industrial development because it draws resources toward the comparative advantage sector, agriculture. However, agricultural productivity growth can increase savings and the supply of capital, generating an expansion of the capital-intensive sector, manufacturing. We highlight this mechanism in a simple model and test its predictions in the context of a large and exogenous increase in agricultural productivity due to the adoption of genetically engineered soy in Brazil. We find that agricultural productivity growth generated an increase in savings, but these were not reinvested locally. Instead, there were capital outflows from rural areas. Capital reallocated toward urban regions, where it was invested in the industrial and service sectors. The degree of financial integration affected the speed of structural transformation. Regions that were more financially integrated with soy-producing areas through bank branch networks experienced faster growth in nonagricultural lending. Within these regions, firms with preexisting relationships with banks receiving funds from the soy area experienced faster growth in borrowing and employment.


Paula Bustos

ICREA Research Professor at Universitat Pompeu Fabra

Gabriel Garber

Banco Central do Brasil

Jacopo Ponticelli

Northwestern University