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Selection, Agriculture, and Cross-Country Productivity Differences

Author

Listed:
  • David Lagakos
  • Michael E. Waugh

Abstract

Cross-country labor productivity differences are larger in agriculture than in non-agriculture. We propose a new explanation for these patterns in which the self-selection of heterogeneous workers determines sector productivity. We formalize our theory in a general-equilibrium Roy model in which preferences feature a subsistence food requirement. In the model, subsistence requirements induce workers that are relatively unproductive at agricultural work to nonetheless select into the agriculture sector in poor countries. When parameterized, the model predicts that productivity differences are roughly twice as large in agriculture as non-agriculture even when countries differ by an economy-wide efficiency term that affects both sectors uniformly. (JEL J24, J31, J43, O11, O13, O40)

Suggested Citation

  • David Lagakos & Michael E. Waugh, 2013. "Selection, Agriculture, and Cross-Country Productivity Differences," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 103(2), pages 948-980, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:103:y:2013:i:2:p:948-80
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/aer.103.2.948
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials
    • J43 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Particular Labor Markets - - - Agricultural Labor Markets
    • O11 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Macroeconomic Analyses of Economic Development
    • O13 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Agriculture; Natural Resources; Environment; Other Primary Products
    • O40 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - General

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