Working Paper

Shadow vs. market prices in explaining land allocation: Subsistence maize cultivation in rural Mexico


  • Arslan
  • A.
Publication Date

Economic models of land allocation may lead to expectations for farmer response that “surprisingly"

do not materialize, if market prices fail to reflect the value of farmers' product. “Shadow prices" rather

than market prices explain resource allocation better for farmers who attach significant non-market

values to their own crops. I extend the theoretical model in Arslan and Taylor (2008) to explain why

the land allocation of such farmers may not respond to market signals even if transaction costs are not

binding. I estimate the proportion of land subsistence maize farmers allocate to traditional versus

modern maize varieties using nationally representative rural household data from Mexico – the center

of diversity of maize. I conclude that shadow prices explain land allocation better than market prices

and discuss the importance of non-market values in understanding both farmers' supply response and

on-farm conservation of traditional crops with non-market values.


JEL Classification
O12, O13, Q12, Q39

Key Words

  • Conservation
  • land allocation
  • Mexico
  • non-market values
  • on-farm
  • Shadow prices
  • traditional crops