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Immigrant Workers and Technological Change in U.S. Agriculture: A Profit Maximization Approach of Induced Innovation


  • Napasintuwong, Orachos
  • Emerson, Robert D.


This paper analyzes changes in U.S. agricultural technology during 1960-1999, emphasizing the role of immigrant workers on farm mechanization. The rates and directions of biased technological change based on the induced innovation theory are compared before and after the passage of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 which was intended to reduce employment of unauthorized workers. Unlike previous studies of induced innovation, this paper develops a new theoretical and empirical model of induced innovation using a profit maximization approach. The contribution of the profit maximization approach is that it allows changes in output combinations as a result of technological change. We found that the technology was biased against hired and self-employed labor, and toward capital during the study period. Although the bias against labor diminished considerably after 1986, the bias toward capital did not change appreciably after 1986. An important insight via the profit maximization approach is that the technology became biased in favor of labor intensive, perishable crops after 1986.

Suggested Citation

  • Napasintuwong, Orachos & Emerson, Robert D., 2006. "Immigrant Workers and Technological Change in U.S. Agriculture: A Profit Maximization Approach of Induced Innovation," 2006 Annual Meeting, August 12-18, 2006, Queensland, Australia 25505, International Association of Agricultural Economists.
  • Handle: RePEc:ags:iaae06:25505

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Binswanger, Hans P, 1974. "The Measurement of Technical Change Biases with Many Factors of Production," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 64(6), pages 964-976, December.
    2. Hayami, Yujiro & Ruttan, V W, 1970. "Factor Prices and Technical Change in Agricultural Development: The United States and Japan, 1880-1960," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 78(5), pages 1115-1141, Sept.-Oct.
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    Cited by:

    1. Kimhi, Ayal, 2015. "Are Migrant Agricultural Workers Replacing the Local Workforce?," 2015 Allied Social Science Association (ASSA) Annual Meeting, January 3-5, 2015, Boston, Massachusetts 189689, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
    2. Kimhi, Ayal, 2015. "Is foreign farm labor a blessing or a curse? Evidence from Israel," 2015 Conference, August 9-14, 2015, Milan, Italy 211852, International Association of Agricultural Economists.

    More about this item


    immigrant workers; farm mechanization; technological change; induced innovation; profit function model; Labor and Human Capital; Research and Development/Tech Change/Emerging Technologies; J43; J6; O3; Q55;

    JEL classification:

    • J43 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Particular Labor Markets - - - Agricultural Labor Markets
    • J6 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers
    • O3 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights
    • Q55 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Environmental Economics: Technological Innovation


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