This paper extends Alexandr Chayanov’s model of changing household demography (specifically the ratio of food consumers to food producers) and its influence on agricultural behavior so that it includes possible adverse effects of a rising ratio on nutritional status and early childhood mortality within the household. We apply the model to 35 years’ worth of longitudinal demographic and economic data collected in the irrigated-rice growing village of Na Savang in northern Laos. When appropriate controls are included for other household variables, unobserved inter-household heterogeneity, and changes in local conditions and national policy over the study period, the analysis suggests that a unit increase in the household’s consumer/producer ratio induces something like a nine-fold increase in the risk of death among household members aged less than five years. Monte Carlo simulation studies suggest that this may be an over-estimate but also that the effect is probably real and likely to be an important factor in household demography. At the very least, the results suggest that Chayanov’s model still has theoretical relevance and deserves to be revived.
Tomita, Shinsuke; Parker, Daniel M.; Jennings, Julia; and Wood, James, "Household Demography and Early Childhood Mortality in a Rice-Farming Village in Northern Laos" (2015). Anthropology Faculty Scholarship. 4.