Three essays on productivity and risk, marketing decisions, and changes in well-being over time

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Virginia Tech

This dissertation is composed of three essays; the first two examine the decisionmaking of potato producing households in Bolivia and the third examines well-being changes among Zimbabwe households. The first essay entitled “The role of risk mitigation in production efficiency: A case study of potato cultivation in the Bolivian Andes” estimates the costs of self-managing environmental risk through activity and environmental diversification. Risk management has the potential to reduce income variability but at the cost of increasing production inefficiency, which we measure employing a stochastic production frontier. Among variables capturing environmental diversification, discontinuity between fields has the most detrimental effect on production efficiency. Activity diversification, measured by the ratio of potato to total crop revenue, has a stronger impact on inefficiency and yield losses than any of the environmental diversification variables.

The second essay entitled “Determinants of market participation decisions and marketing choices in Bolivia” examines three decisions related to potato market participation: market entry, volume sold, and market choice. The first two are analyzed using a Heckman selection model. Results indicate that isolation, measured by population density and distance to markets, negatively impacts market entry. The most important determinant of quantity sold is land holding. Market choices are judged according to second-order stochastic dominance (SOSD). Market choices meeting the SOSD criterion are referred to as optimal marketing strategies as they have the higher expected payoff for a minimal income variance. Results suggest that the probability of selecting an optimal marketing strategy increases with quantity sold, access to market information, and access to liquidity while it decreases with distance to markets.

The third essay entitled “A profile of changes in well-being in Zimbabwe, 2001- 2007/8, using an asset index methodology” shows that it is possible to examine intertemporal and spatial changes in well-being in the absence of consumption expenditures data by using an asset index. The asset index was constructed using Polychoric Principal Component Analysis. Results indicate that poverty and extremely poverty grew significantly in rural Zimbabwe while in urban areas, poverty diminished and extreme poverty grew.

Poverty, Asset Index, Market Participation, Risk Mitigation, Stochastic Production Frontier, SANREM, Econometrics, Spatial analysis, Governance Watershed