This paper provides a synthesis of the empirical literature on the key issues in agricultural and rural labour markets since 1960s, drawing mainly upon studies from the United States and the European Union, but also including relevant material from developing countries. The contribution of this meta-analysis lies in its unique structure as it covers the main research questions which have been addressed in the literature and includes the most cited papers from the American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Journal of Agricultural Economics, European Review of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural Economics as well as other reports and EU funded projects. Each research question is accompanied by tabular summaries which classify the individual studies according to the methodology and the variables employed. The heterogeneous conditions across countries, the different research questions and methodologies, and the type of data employed, have sometimes led to conflicting results. Nonetheless, by comparing the results it is possible to assess the significance and the direction of the determinants of rural labour allocation and its adjustments, and thus contribute to a better understanding on the functioning of rural labour markets. Lastly, by recognising the importance of the institutional framework, the paper provides useful policy insights.
The authors are researchers at the School of Economics at the University of Kent.