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Movers and stayers in the farming sector: accounting for unobserved heterogeneity in structural change


  • Legrand D.F. Saint-Cyr
  • Laurent Piet


This article compares the respective performance of the mover-stayer model (MSM) and the Markov chain model (MCM) to investigate whether accounting for unobserved heterogeneity in the rate of movements of farms across size categories improves the representation of the transition process. The MCM has become a popular tool in agricultural economics research to describe how farms experience structural change and to study the impact of the various drivers of this process, including public support. Even though some studies have accounted for heterogeneity across farms by letting transition probabilities depend on covariates depicting characteristics of farms and/or farmers, only observed heterogeneity has been considered so far. Assuming that structural change may also relate to unobserved characteristics of farms and/or farmers, we present an implementation of the MSM which considers a mixture of two types of farms: the `stayers' who always remain in their initial size category and the `movers' who follow a first-order Markovian process. This modeling framework relaxes the assumption of homogeneity in the transition process which the basis of the usual MCM. Then, we explain how to estimate the model using likelihood maximization and the expectation-maximization (EM) algorithm. An empirical application to a panel of French farms over 2000-2013 shows that the MSM outperforms the MCM in recovering the underlying year-on-year transition process as well as in deriving the longrun transition matrix and predicting the future distribution of farm sizes

Suggested Citation

  • Legrand D.F. Saint-Cyr & Laurent Piet, 2015. "Movers and stayers in the farming sector: accounting for unobserved heterogeneity in structural change," Working Papers SMART - LERECO 15-06, INRA UMR SMART-LERECO.
  • Handle: RePEc:rae:wpaper:201506

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Legrand D. F, Saint-Cyr, 2017. "Farm heterogeneity and agricultural policy impacts on size dynamics: evidence from France," Working Papers SMART - LERECO 17-04, INRA UMR SMART-LERECO.
    2. Laurent, Piet & Legrand D.F. Saint-Cyr, 2016. "Projection de la population des exploitations agricoles françaises à l’horizon 2025," Working Papers SMART - LERECO 16-11, INRA UMR SMART-LERECO.
    3. Tamirat, Aderajew AS & Trujillo-Barrera, Andres A. & Pennings, Joost M. E., 2018. "Farm Level Risk Balancing Behavior and the Role of Latent Heterogeneity," 2018 Annual Meeting, August 5-7, Washington, D.C. 274467, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.

    More about this item


    structural change; unobserved heterogeneity; arkov chain mover-stayer model; em algorithm;

    JEL classification:

    • Q12 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Agriculture - - - Micro Analysis of Farm Firms, Farm Households, and Farm Input Markets
    • C15 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric and Statistical Methods and Methodology: General - - - Statistical Simulation Methods: General
    • D92 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Intertemporal Firm Choice, Investment, Capacity, and Financing

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