Of Women and Land: How Gender Affects Successions and Transfers of Iowa Farms

Beatrice Maule, Wendong Zhang, Qing Liu
January 2022  [22-WP 631]

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Maule, B., W. Zhang, and Q. Liu. 2022. "Of Women and Land: How Gender Affects Successions and Transfers of Iowa Farms." Working paper 22-WP 631. Center for Agricultural and Rural Development, Iowa State University.


Using 591 crop and livestock farmers’ responses to the 2019 Iowa Farm Transfer Survey, we examine factors driving the gender imbalance in farm successor choices among Iowa farmers with a focus on female successors and landowners. Our data reveals a large gender gap—58% of farmers chose sons and only 8% chose daughters as main successor. We develop four conceptual hypotheses from a model linking farmer and successor characteristics with the farmer’s probability of choosing a daughter as main successor. Our models reveal the probability of choosing daughters as main successor increases when the farmer is female, when the farmer only has daughters, when the daughters have farming experience or an agriculture-related job, and when the farm operation is a partnership with a wife. We find an 11.1% probability of a female farmer choosing a daughter as a successor, but only 4.6% for a male farmer. A daughter having an agriculture-related job increases the probability from 4.4% to 17.0%; whereas the same related experience increases a son’s chance from 34.7% to 59.4%. With half of Iowa farmland owned by women, our paper reveals striking evidence of gender imbalance in farm succession, transfer, and inheritance decisions of U.S. farms.