Measuring the American farm size distribution

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2022-05-09
Authors
Lacy, Katherine
Schneekloth, Skyler
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Wiley
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Economics

The Department of Economic Science was founded in 1898 to teach economic theory as a truth of industrial life, and was very much concerned with applying economics to business and industry, particularly agriculture. Between 1910 and 1967 it showed the growing influence of other social studies, such as sociology, history, and political science. Today it encompasses the majors of Agricultural Business (preparing for agricultural finance and management), Business Economics, and Economics (for advanced studies in business or economics or for careers in financing, management, insurance, etc).

History
The Department of Economic Science was founded in 1898 under the Division of Industrial Science (later College of Liberal Arts and Sciences); it became co-directed by the Division of Agriculture in 1919. In 1910 it became the Department of Economics and Political Science. In 1913 it became the Department of Applied Economics and Social Science; in 1924 it became the Department of Economics, History, and Sociology; in 1931 it became the Department of Economics and Sociology. In 1967 it became the Department of Economics, and in 2007 it became co-directed by the Colleges of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Liberal Arts and Sciences, and Business.

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1898–present

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  • Department of Economic Science (1898–1910)
  • Department of Economics and Political Science (1910-1913)
  • Department of Applied Economics and Social Science (1913–1924)
  • Department of Economics, History and Sociology (1924–1931)
  • Department of Economics and Sociology (1931–1967)

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Abstract
This paper develops a measure of farm size as a share-weighted sum of farm sizes, called the Share Weighted Size Index (SWSI), which introduces new evidence of farm consolidation from 1959 to 2017. Our Share Weighted Size Index provides more reasonable estimates of the entire farm size distribution than simple averages and is useful for comparing farm size across crops at one point in time or for comparing farm sizes for a given crop over time. Although previous measures have relied on confidential or hard-to-access farm-level records, the Share Weighted Size Index is derived exclusively from publicly available Census of Agriculture data. Unlike average farm size, the Share Weighted Size Index reveals consistent evidence of rising farm size, the importance of returns to scale for most commodities, and the rising importance of specialization on a small number of crops within farms. Contrary to past studies that argued rising off-farm wages increase farm size, we find evidence that proximity to off-farm opportunities results in smaller farms.
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This is the peer-reviewed version of the following article: Lacy, Katherine, Peter F. Orazem, and Skyler Schneekloth. "Measuring the American farm size distribution." American Journal of Agricultural Economics (2022), which has been published in final form at DOI: 10.1111/ajae.12318. This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Self-Archiving. Copyright 2022 Agricultural and Applied Economics Association. Posted with permission.
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