Subsistence agriculture in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) has only recently gained interest from agricultural economists. Their origin, their future and even their definition is still not well elaborated. This paper tries to throw light on the issue of subsistence farming in CEE. It first discusses the theoretical and empirical background of subsistence agriculture. This part is followed by a typology of subsistence farming as found in CEE. Analysis considers several hypotheses on the cause of subsistence agriculture, among them the structure of land ownership, market imperfections and lack of alternative income sources or low opportunity costs of labour respectively. Of all these hypotheses, only the latter can be proofed empirically, which is done by a nonlinear regression analysis. The paper concludes that this gives reason to argue that rather economic problems than specific problems related to the agricultural structure in CEE determine the degree of subsistence farming. Consequently, structural and social policies rather than agricultural policies like market intervention are to be considered.