Studies dealing with productivity in female (FHH) and male headed households (MHH) find that FHH appear to be either less, equally, or more productive compared to MHH. Lower productivity of FHH is often explained by insecure access to land, while the findings of higher productivity largely remain unexplained. This paper is an attempt to reconcile these contrasting findings by constructing a model that accounts for productivity effects arising from secure land rights and the risk of falling short of income. Both affect productivity, but they do so in opposite directions. While tenure insecurity tends to decrease labor effort, income risks increase it as subsistence farmers want to avoid falling (deeper) into poverty. Depending on which of these risks prevails in the perception of farmers, they become either more or less productive than a benchmark farmer who faces none of these constraints. The model is tested using data from Kenya where FHH are categorized by different land tenure security schemes. The results from a stochastic cost frontier model establish that FHH facing tenure insecurity are less productive compared to MHH. However, this result only obtains in case households do not face income risks.


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