BREAD Working Paper No. 506, March 2017

Reevaluating Agricultural Productivity Gaps with Longitudinal Microdata

Joan Hamory Hicks, Marieke Kleemans, Nicholas Y. Li, Edward Miguel

Abstract

Recent research has pointed to large gaps in labor productivity between the agricultural and non-agricultural sectors in low-income countries, as well as between workers in rural and urban areas. Most estimates are based on national accounts or repeated cross-sections of micro-survey data, and as a result typically struggle to account for individual selection between sectors. This paper contributes to this literature using long-run individual-level panel data from two low-income countries (Indonesia and Kenya). Accounting for individual fixed effects leads to much smaller estimated productivity gains from moving into the non-agricultural sector (or urban areas), reducing estimated gaps by over 80 percent. Per capita consumption gaps between non-agricultural and agricultural sectors, as well as between urban and rural areas, are also close to zero once individual fixed effects are included. Estimated productivity gaps do not emerge up to five years after a move between sectors, nor are they larger in big cities. We evaluate whether these findings imply a re-assessment of the current conventional wisdom regarding sectoral gaps, discuss how to reconcile them with existing cross-sectional estimates, and consider implications for the desirability of sectoral reallocation of labor.

Keywords: agricultural productivity, migration, panel data

JEL classification codes: J43, O13, O15, R23

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