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Could the debate be over ? errors in farmer-reported production and their implications for the inverse scale-productivity relationship in Uganda


  • Gourlay,Sydney
  • Kilic,Talip
  • Lobell,David


Based on a two-round household panel survey conducted in Eastern Uganda, this study shows that the analysis of the inverse scale-productivity relationship is highly sensitive to how plot-level maize production, hence yield (production divided by GPS-based plot area), is measured. Although farmer-reported production-based plot-level maize yield regressions consistently lend support to the inverse scale-productivity relationship, the comparable regressions estimated with maize yields based on sub-plot crop cutting, full-plot crop cutting, and remote sensing point toward constant returns to scale, at the mean as well as throughout the distributions of objective measures of maize yield. In deriving the much-debated coefficient for GPS-based plot area, the maize yield regressions control for objective measures of soil fertility, maize genetic heterogeneity, and edge effects at the plot level; a rich set of plot, household, and plot manager attributes; as well as time-invariant household- and parcel-level unobserved heterogeneity in select specifications that exploit the panel nature of the data. The core finding is driven by persistent overestimation of farmer-reported maize production and yield vis-à-vis their crop cutting?based counterparts, particularly in the lower half of the plot area distribution. Although the results contribute to a larger, and renewed, body of literature questioning the inverse scale-productivity relationship based on omitted explanatory variables or alternative formulations of the agricultural productivity measure, the paper is among the first documenting how the inverse relationship could be a statistical artifact, driven by errors in farmer-reported survey data on crop production.

Suggested Citation

  • Gourlay,Sydney & Kilic,Talip & Lobell,David, 2017. "Could the debate be over ? errors in farmer-reported production and their implications for the inverse scale-productivity relationship in Uganda," Policy Research Working Paper Series 8192, The World Bank.
  • Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:8192

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    Cited by:

    1. Abay, Kibrom A. & Abate, Gashaw T. & Barrett, Christopher B. & Bernard, Tanguy, 2019. "Correlated non-classical measurement errors, ‘Second best’ policy inference, and the inverse size-productivity relationship in agriculture," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 139(C), pages 171-184.
    2. Fernando M. Aragon Sanchez & Diego Restuccia & Juan Pablo Rud, 2019. "Are Small Farms Really more Productive than Large Farms?," NBER Working Papers 26331, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Wineman, Ayala & Jayne, Thomas S., 2017. "Factor Market Activity And The Inverse Farm Sizeproductivity Relationship In Tanzania," Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Food Security Policy Research Papers 265405, Michigan State University, Department of Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics, Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Food Security (FSP).
    4. Desiere, Sam & Jolliffe, Dean, 2018. "Land productivity and plot size: Is measurement error driving the inverse relationship?," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 130(C), pages 84-98.
    5. Basile Boulay, 2018. "Revisiting the old debate: on the relationship between size and productivity in Tanzania," Discussion Papers 2018-02, University of Nottingham, CREDIT.
    6. Steven Helfand & Matthew Taylor, 2018. "The Inverse Relationship between Farm Size and Productivity: Refocusing the Debate," Working Papers 201811, University of California at Riverside, Department of Economics.
    7. Rada, Nicholas E. & Fuglie, Keith O., 2019. "New perspectives on farm size and productivity," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 84(C), pages 147-152.
    8. Gollin, D. & Udry, C., 2018. "Heterogeneity, Measurement Error, and Misallocation: Evidence from African Agriculture," 2018 Conference, July 28-August 2, 2018, Vancouver, British Columbia 277279, International Association of Agricultural Economists.
    9. repec:bla:agecon:v:50:y:2019:i:2:p:237-246 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. Senne Vandevelde & Bjorn Van Campenhout & Wilberforce Walukano, 2018. "Spoiler alert! Spillovers in the context of a video intervention to maintain seed quality among Ugandan potato farmers," LICOS Discussion Papers 40718, LICOS - Centre for Institutions and Economic Performance, KU Leuven.


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