NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Latifundia as Malefactor in Economic Development? Scale, Tenancy, and Agriculture on the Pampas, 1880-1914

Alan M. Taylor

NBER Historical Working Paper No. 96
Issued in March 1997
NBER Program(s):   DAE

This paper uses extensive micro-level data from Argentine agriculture circa 1880-1914 to explore various hypotheses relating to the supposed unusual and favored position enjoyed by the owner-operated large scale estates (latifundia) on the pampas as compared to small-scale units operated by cash tenants and sharecroppers. I have access to several data sets which allow me to explore whether tenancy and scale mattered as determinants of technique and efficiency in the rural estates of Buenos Aires province at the turn of the century, and I obtain some surprising results. Tenants did not seem disadvantaged in terms of access to land. Accumulation of land in and of itself produced no direct gain in terms of augmented land prices (due to say, scale economies or monopoly power). And tenancy status appears to have mattered very little as a determinant of investment choices. I conclude that the case against the latifundia, and the pessimistic conventional view of tenant farming on the pampas rests, at present, on little firm quantitative evidence.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/h0096

Published: Research in Economic History, Vol. 17 (1997): 261-300.

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