Économie et Statistique n° 444-445 - 2011Land and agriculture, recent developments
Farmers and Their Assets: Do They Fit the Standard Profile of the Self-Employed?
The self-employed evade inclusion in most analyses of social stratification. One possible way to gain further knowledge of their social position is to study their assets. Most self-employed individuals personally exploit productive assets that they own wholly or in part. This article uses the 2003-2004 INSEE “Assets” (Patrimoine) survey to provide a breakdown of assets of the self-employed-notably farmers-into three categories: business, real estate, and financial. Farmers and professionals have higher gross asset levels than craft workers and retailers. However, there is a significant difference between farmers and professionals, as asset dispersion is far smaller for farm entrepreneurs. The level of gross business assets below which one finds the least affluent quarter of farmer households is €81,748, i.e., three times the equivalent threshold for retailers, six times that of craftsmen, and fifteen times that of professionals. This denotes a relatively high entry cost in the farming sector, in the form of fixed-asset investment. Accordingly, farmers have the largest gross business-asset holdings, averaging €274,573. For all other self-employment categories, the share of business assets tends to decline as total wealth rises. By contrast, among farmers, the share of business assets remains large whatever their total wealth. The explanation lies in the fact that farmers own an illiquid but highly valuable business asset: land. The wealthier the farmer, the larger the share of land in his or her business assets.