Abstract

We exploit a quasi-natural experiment of military draftees in Russia during World War I to examine the effects of a massive, negative labor shock on agricultural production. Employing a novel district-level panel data set, we find that mass mobilization produces a dramatic decrease in cultivated area. Surprisingly, farms with communal land tenure exhibit greater resilience to the labor shock than private farms. The resilience stems from peasants reallocating labor in favor of the commune because of the increased attractiveness of its nonmarket access to land and social insurance. Our results support an institutional explanation of factor misallocation in agriculture.

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