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Economies of Density versus Natural Advantage: Crop Choice on the Back Forty

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  • Thomas J. Holmes
  • Sanghoon Lee

Abstract

We estimate the factors determining specialization of crop choice at the level of individual fields, distinguishing between the role of natural advantage (soil characteristics) and economies of density (scale economies achieved when farmers plant neighboring fields with the same crop). Using rich geographic data from North Dakota, including new data on crop choice collected by satellite, we estimate the analog of a social interactions econometric model for the planting decisions on neighboring fields. We find that planting decisions on a field are heavily dependent on the soil characteristics of the neighboring fields. Through this relationship, we back out the structural parameters of economies of density. Setting an Ellison-Glaeser dartboard level of specialization as a benchmark, we find that of the actual level of specialization achieved beyond this benchmark, approximately two-thirds can be attributed to natural advantage and one-third to density economies.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 14704.

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Date of creation: Feb 2009
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Publication status: published as Thomas J. Holmes & Sanghoon Lee, 2012. "Economies of Density versus Natural Advantage: Crop Choice on the Back Forty," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 94(1), pages 1-19, 07.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:14704

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  12. Douglas W. Caves & Laurits R. Christensen & Michael W. Tretheway, 1984. "Economies of Density versus Economies of Scale: Why Trunk and Local Service Airline Costs Differ," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 15(4), pages 471-489, Winter.
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  14. Bajari, Patrick & Hong, Han & Krainer, John & Nekipelov, Denis, 2010. "Estimating Static Models of Strategic Interactions," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 28(4), pages 469-482.
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