The determinants and effects of the off-farm employment decision: a study of the northern Ecuadorian Amazon Public Deposited

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  • March 21, 2019
  • Theyson, Katherine Christina
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Economics
  • The immediate agents of tropical deforestation in the developing world are primarily migrant colonist farmers. One approach for confronting deforestation suggested in the literature has been off-farm employment (OFE), since it takes household labor away from the farm, reducing pressures on the land while also increasing farm household incomes--a win-win solution. It has thus come to be promoted by policymakers and economists as a way to address deforestation in environmentally sensitive areas. Nevertheless, research on the impact of OFE on land use and deforestation at the household level continues to be sparse. This dissertation investigates the economic and non-economic factors affecting the OFE and land clearing/use choices of migrant settler households in the Northern Ecuadorian Amazon (NEA) rainforest, an area of extraordinary biodiversity that has been undergoing rapid deforestation since the discovery of oil in 1967. Land clearing/use and household labor allocation are interrelated but have not been examined together in previous empirical studies. In this dissertation, I use detailed data from a probability sample of over 700 farm households to assess the factors that affect the choices of men and women to engage in OFE and the impact of that OFE on land clearing and land use. Following development of the theoretical model of the farm household, bivariate probit analysis with household level fixed effects is used to determine the individual characteristics that affect participation in farm work and OFE. Because participation in OFE is a choice variable, the analysis of the impact of OFE on land clearing/use utilizes an instrumental variables framework with community level fixed effects. I find that households who take part in more OFE do not deforest significantly less than other households, nor do they allocate their land to different uses than households who choose not to participate. Thus policies to promote more OFE, such as the expansion of road networks, increases in educational opportunities, and improved access to electricity, will not solve the problem of deforestation. In the concluding chapter I offer further suggestions for policy as well as on improving data collection and extending the empirical model.
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  • Bilsborrow, Richard E.
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  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
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