Labor Surplus and Mass Mobilization: Russian Agriculture during the Great War
We use mass mobilization for World War I as an exogenous source of variation in the labor force to test the extent of agricultural surplus in one of the most quintessential examples of labor surplus, late imperial Russia. We construct district-level panel data describing agricultural production in the Russian Empire before and during the World War I. We show that districts that experienced greater mass mobilization responded by decreasing area under crops. We next demonstrate the differential effects of mobilization for commune and private farm production, peak and slack season production and cereals and animal husbandry production. Taken together, these results suggest that peasants responded to mass mobilization in a dramatic way. We estimate the upper bound of labor surplus in the agricultural sector to be significantly lower than previous estimates; however, our estimate is conditional on this peculiar pattern of labor removal.
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