Explaining contract choice: vertical co-ordination, sharecropping, and wine, France 1850-1950
Recent literature on sharecropping has emphasized its importance in reducing problems associated with moral hazard in cultivation (Tuscany), or in providing an important ‘rung’ on the farm ladder (US South). Yet despite these and other important features, sharecropping is surprisingly absent in many, if not most other settings. Using case studies associated with French wine production, this paper argues that a number of factors have often been overlooked in the literature: 1) the need for landowners to be able to offer farms that were both sufficiently large to employ full time the sharecropper’s family, and allowed them to produce a variety of products to minimize risk; 2) measurement problems associated with the division of the harvest, especially when quality was an important factor in determining farm price; 3) and the nature of vertical co-operation and integration associated with the production and marketing arrangements of individual crops explains that landowners were not indifferent to receiving payment in cash or kind, and this affected contract choice. This paper incorporates these ideas to explain not just the presence and absence of sharecropping in different geographical localities, but also the wide variety of different forms of the contract that existed in Europe.
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