Hicks, Joan Hamory, Marieke Kleemans, Nicholas Y. Li, and Edward Miguel. (2020). "Reevaluating Agricultural Productivity Gaps with Longitudinal Microdata", forthcoming Journal of the European Economic Association.
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 uses long-run individual-level panel data from two low-income countries (Indonesia and Kenya) to explore these gaps. 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 roughly 67 to 92%. Furthermore, gaps do not emerge up to five years after a move between sectors. We evaluate whether these findings imply a re-assessment of the 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.