Changes in land use and land cover are dynamic processes reflecting a sequence of decisions made by individual land managers. In developing economies, these decisions may be embedded in the evolution of individual households, as is often the case in indigenous areas and agricultural frontiers. One goal of the present article is to address the land-use and land-cover decisions of colonist farmers in the Amazon Basin as a function, in part, of household characteristics. Another goal is to generalize the issue of tropical deforestation into a broader discussion on forest dynamics. The extent of secondary forest in tropical areas has been well documented in South America and Africa. Agricultural-plot abandonment often occurs in tandem with primary forest clearance and as part of the same decision-making calculus. Consequently, tropical deforestation and forest succession are not independent processes in the landscape. This article presents a framework that integrates them into a model of forest dynamics at household level, and in so doing provides an account of the spatial pattern of deforestation that has been observed in the Amazon's colonization frontiers.