Linkages between population growth, socioeconomic development and agricultural intensification are examined using district-level data for India for 1951, 1961, 1971, 1981 and 1991. Both cross-sectional and longitudinal analyses are carried out using multivariate methods. Results from the cross-sectional analysis indicate that population pressure has positive and significant effects on each dimension of agricultural intensification (cropping frequency, artificial irrigation and chemical fertiliser use) for each census year between 1951 and 1991. Results from the longitudinal analysis for 1961–91 indicate that population growth has a positive effect on changes in each of the three intensification dimensions. The results hold even after controlling for the effects of regional differences in agroclimatic conditions and levels of social and economic development. The effects of socioeconomic variables are generally insignificant and do not alter the effects of population growth. The findings provide strong support for Boserup's land-intensification hypothesis.