Land transfers, occupational stratification and poverty reduction

ZHOU Jingkui WANG Wenbo GONG Mingyuan HUANG Zhengxue

【Abstract】Poverty is a worldwide problem. As the largest developing country in the world, China has always regarded poverty alleviation, especially rural poverty, as an important goal of social and economic development. Since China’s reform and opening up, the reform of agricultural land transfers has played an active role in promoting the establishment of a rural land market, the large-scale operation of agricultural land and the flow of rural labor. Rural laborers are increasingly engaged in non-agricultural employment, which is becoming an important factor in increasing farmers’ income. In addition, with the increase in the scale of rural labor mobility, farmers’ career choices also show diversified characteristics. Rural poverty reduction is closely related to the transfers of agricultural land and occupational stratification. However, the role of occupational stratification and the promotion of agricultural land transfers in alleviating the poverty of farmers and the mechanism behind such an impact are still unclear. We studied these issues both theoretically and empirically. Although there are many studies on the relationship among land transfers, farmer household characteristics and farmers’ poverty alleviation, the predicament faced by rural poor families is that their scale of land is small, their family labor force is insufficient, the professional skills of family members are not strong and there is employment discrimination in the non-agricultural labor market, meaning that poor families have incentives to transfer land but face occupational choice constraints. These issues imply that there is much uncertainty over the poverty reduction effect of the non-agricultural employment promoted by agricultural land transfers. In addition, few studies on the relationship among agricultural land transfers, occupational stratification and poverty reduction use a unified theoretical framework. We constructed a two-sector model of urban and rural areas based on the career choices of rural poor families and the transfer of agricultural land to analyze theoretically the impact of agricultural land transfers and occupational stratification on farmers’ poverty. On the basis of the theoretical model, we used data from the China Family Panel Studies (CFPS) to conduct an empirical analysis of the impact of agricultural land transfers and occupational stratification on poverty reduction, and we performed an in-depth analysis of the underlying mechanism. This paper has made two contributions to the literature. (1) By constructing a urban-rural two-sector model based on the occupational choices of rural poor families and the behavior of agricultural land transfers, we theoretically analyzed the improvement in the degree of marketization of agricultural land, the impact of the farmland transfer behavior of rural poor families on family career choices and the impact on rural poverty reduction from a multi-dimensional perspective. Theoretical research shows that agricultural land transfers can increase the income of poor families by promoting occupational transfers, reducing the poverty level of rural poor families in terms of their absolute income level, relative income level and living standard. (2) Using the CFPS data, we empirically examined the impact of agricultural land transfers and occupational stratification on the poverty reduction of rural poor families. We found that agricultural land transfers are an important driving force for promoting occupational stratification and poverty alleviation in rural poor families. The transfer of agricultural land also promotes the occupational stratification of poor rural families, which affects poverty reduction for poor families. The poverty alleviation effect we have found implies that the transfer of agricultural land has an important impact on the relative income level and living standards of poor rural families.

【Keywords】 poor households; land transfer; occupational stratification; poverty reduction effects;

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ISSN:0577-9154

CN:11-1081/F

Vol 55, No. 06, Pages 155-171

June 2020

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