Document Type

Thesis - University Access Only

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department / School


First Advisor

Evert Van der Sluis


This thesis focuses on the economic determinants of the occupational outmigration of labor from agriculture in the United States. An individual's decision to move out of the agricultural sector is primarily based on a comparison between the expected returns in the agricultural and nonagricultural sectors. Using annual time series data spanning the period from 1939 to 2004, an OLS regression model is estimated to evaluate the effects of economic and demographic variable on occupational out-migration from the agricultural sector. The determining factors investigated in the study are sectoral income differentials, off-farm income acquired by farm households, federal government payments to the agricultural sector, agricultural land values, and the unemployment rate in the U.S. economy at large. Three groups of agricultural labor migrants are considered: hired farm workers, farm operators, and total agricultural labor. The results suggest that high economic returns in a composite nonfarm sector relative to those attained in agriculture increase agricultural labor out migration. On the other hand, increased levels of off-farm income are associated with halting total agricultural labor out migration. Further, agricultural land values have a mixed effect on migration In particular, higher land values are found to decrease farm operator out migration, but increase hired farm worker out migration. Farm program payments were shown to be ineffective in staving off agricultural labor out migration. The unemployment rate in the economy as a whole did not significantly effect off-farm migration.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Labor mobility -- United States Agriculture -- Economic aspects -- United States Migration, Internal -- United States Agricultural laborers -- United States

Number of Pages



South Dakota State University



Rights Statement

In Copyright