Working Paper 47


The goal of the present paper is to test the hypothesis that risk has an impact on inequality.

Many studies investigating the behaviour of farmers under risk have concluded that poorer farmers tend to reduce their risk by reducing proportionally more their expected gross margin than the wealthier ones because they are more risk averse and less protected against risk. This would be the driving force behind the distributional impact of risk.

This paper proposes a direct way to test this hypothesis by decomposing income inequality in its different sources in order to understand the importance of risk compared to other factors in explaining inequality.

The method was applied to a dataset of repeated cross-sectional data on the Irish agriculture and it was found that risk explains up to 20 per cent of inequality once other factors are controlled for.

Furthermore, this impact has been seen to rise over time but could be stopped by mitigating the impact of risk on farmers with proper risk management tools.

Lastly, this rise coincides with the rise in market risk linked to lowering of price support implemented under the reforms of pillar I of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). It is therefore likely that the distributional impact of risk is going to be high over the next decade because of the planned lowering of market supports under the next reform of the CAP.

Xavier Vollenweider, Salvatore Di Falco and Cathal O’Donoghue

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