Understanding how and why economies structurally transform away from agriculture as they grow is crucial for developing sensible growth strategies and farm and food policies. Typically, analysts who study this and related structural change issues focus on sectoral shares of gross domestic product (GDP) and employment. This article draws on trade theory to focus as well on exports. It also notes that the trade costs of some products are too high at early stages of development to make international trade profitable, so a nontradables sector is recognized. The general equilibrium model presented in the theory section provides hypotheses about structural transformation in differently endowed open economies as they grow. Those hypotheses are tested econometrically with a new annual endowments dataset covering 1995–2018 for more than 130 countries. The results are consistent with long run de-agriculturalization in the course of national economic growth in terms not only of sectoral shares of GDP and employment but also of exports. We find those shares are not significantly affected by either differences across countries in relative factor endowments or relative rates of sectoral assistance from government; but the agricultural GDP and employment shares are higher the higher is the share of agriculture in national exports.
- comparative advantage
- farm productivity growth
- patterns of structural change