The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics

2018 Edition
| Editors: Macmillan Publishers Ltd

Peasant Economy

  • N. H. Stern
Reference work entry


A peasant is someone who lives in the country and works on the land (the word derives from the French paysan). Taking this definition, the topic ‘peasant economy’ concerns the analysis of the economic decisions and interactions of peasants, their relations with other agents and the rest of the economy, the determinants of the general level and distribution of their economic welfare, and how their position might move over time or be affected by policy. As such it is very broad in scope, involving the study of the economic life of around half the world’s population. The term ‘peasant’ is sometimes used in a somewhat narrower sense in economics to mean the small farmer (tenant or smallholder) as opposed to the agricultural labourer or very large landowner. The peasant economy would then be one where farming was conducted mainly by tenants and smallholders. Even under this narrower definition it is clear that vast numbers of individuals are included.


Credit Green Revolution Land reform Peasant economy Rational behaviour Rural–urban migration Sharecropping Urban unemployment 

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© Macmillan Publishers Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • N. H. Stern
    • 1
  1. 1.