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The Off-Farm Occupations of U.S. Farm Operators and Their Spouses


  • Brown, Jason P.
  • Weber, Jeremy


Because of the broad definition of a farm—which includes numerous small operations that produce little or no agricultural commodities in any given year—most farm households earn all of their income from nonfarm sources. However, even those operating farms with substantial production often have significant nonfarm income. Most nonfarm income, in turn, comes from off-farm jobs. Industry and occupation information collected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 2010 Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS) provides one indication of how the skills demanded and cultivated on the farm influence off-farm employment incentives and opportunities. Consistent with the notion that farming requires substantial management skills, this study finds that when farm operators and their spouses work off farm, they are most likely to hold a management or professional occupation. This is especially true for households operating larger farms.

Suggested Citation

  • Brown, Jason P. & Weber, Jeremy, 2013. "The Off-Farm Occupations of U.S. Farm Operators and Their Spouses," Economic Information Bulletin 156535, United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.
  • Handle: RePEc:ags:uersib:156535
    DOI: 10.22004/ag.econ.156535

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Huffman, Wallace E & Lange, Mark D, 1989. "Off-Farm Work Decisions of Husbands and Wives: Joint Decision Making," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 71(3), pages 471-480, August.
    2. Huffman, Wallace E, 1980. "Farm and Off-Farm Work Decisions: The Role of Human Capital," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 62(1), pages 14-23, February.
    3. Hisham S. El-Osta & Ashok K. Mishra & Mitchell J. Morehart, 2008. "Off-Farm Labor Participation Decisions of Married Farm Couples and the Role of Government Payments," Review of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 30(2), pages 311-332.
    4. Jun Koo, 2005. "How to Analyze the Regional Economy With Occupation Data," Economic Development Quarterly, , vol. 19(4), pages 356-372, November.
    5. Michael R. Rahm & Wallace E. Huffman, 1984. "The Adoption of Reduced Tillage: The Role of Human Capital and Other Variables," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 66(4), pages 405-413.
    6. El-Osta, Hisham S., 2011. "The Impact of Human Capital on Farm Operator Household Income," Agricultural and Resource Economics Review, Northeastern Agricultural and Resource Economics Association, vol. 40(1), pages 1-21, April.
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    Cited by:

    1. Daniel A. Sumner, 2014. "American Farms Keep Growing: Size, Productivity, and Policy," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 28(1), pages 147-166, Winter.


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