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The impact of migration on rural poverty and inequality: a case study in China

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  • Nong Zhu
  • Xubei Luo

Abstract

Large numbers of agricultural labor moved from the countryside to cities after the economic reforms in China. Migration and remittances play an important role in transforming the structure of rural household income. This article examines the impact of rural-to-urban migration on rural poverty and inequality in a mountainous area of Hubei province using the data of a 2002 household survey. Since migration income is a potential substitute for farm income, we present counterfactual scenarios of what rural income, poverty, and inequality would have been in the absence of migration. Our results show that, by providing alternatives to households with lower marginal labor productivity in agriculture, migration leads to an increase in rural income. In contrast to many studies that suggest that the increasing share of nonfarm income in total income widens inequality, this article offers support for the hypothesis that migration tends to have egalitarian effects on rural income for three reasons: (1) migration is rational self-selection-farmers with higher expected return in agricultural activities and/or in local nonfarm activities choose to remain in the countryside while those with higher expected return in urban nonfarm sectors migrate; (2) households facing binding constraints of land supply are more likely to migrate; (3) poorer households benefit disproportionately from migration. Copyright (c) 2010 International Association of Agricultural Economists.

Suggested Citation

  • Nong Zhu & Xubei Luo, 2010. "The impact of migration on rural poverty and inequality: a case study in China," Agricultural Economics, International Association of Agricultural Economists, vol. 41(2), pages 191-204, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:agecon:v:41:y:2010:i:2:p:191-204
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    Cited by:

    1. Mahreen Mahmud & Tareena Musaddiq & Farah Said, 2010. "Internal Migration Patterns in Pakistan—The Case for Fiscal Decentralisation," The Pakistan Development Review, Pakistan Institute of Development Economics, vol. 49(4), pages 593-607.
    2. repec:eee:pubeco:v:155:y:2017:i:c:p:122-137 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Ha, Wei & Yi, Junjian & Yuan, Ye & Zhang, Junsen, 2016. "The dynamic effect of rural-to-urban migration on inequality in source villages: System GMM estimates from rural China," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 37(C), pages 27-39.
    4. Chakra P. ACHARYA & Roberto LEON-GONZALEZ, 2013. "The Impact of Remittance on Poverty and Inequality: A Micro-Simulation Study for Nepal," Asian Journal of Empirical Research, Asian Economic and Social Society, vol. 3(9), pages 1061-1080, September.
    5. Asatryan, Zareh & Bittschi, Benjamin & Doerrenberg, Philipp, 2017. "Remittances and public finances: Evidence from oil-price shocks," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 155(C), pages 122-137.
    6. Iris Claus & Les Oxley & Chen Wang & Guanghua Wan & Dan Yang, 2014. "Income Inequality In The People'S Republic Of China: Trends, Determinants, And Proposed Remedies," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 28(4), pages 686-708, September.
    7. Ranathunga, Seetha P.B., 2011. "Impact of rural to urban labour migration and the remittances on sending household welfare: a Sri Lankan case study," MPRA Paper 35943, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 14 Dec 2011.
    8. Patrick S. Ward & Gerald E. Shively, 2015. "Migration and Land Rental as Responses to Income Shocks in Rural China," Pacific Economic Review, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 20(4), pages 511-543, October.
    9. Nguyen, Thinh T. & Saito, Hisamitsu & Isoda, Hiroshi & Ito, Shoichi, 2015. "Balancing Skilled with Unskilled Migration in an Urbanizing Agricultural Economy," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 66(C), pages 457-467.
    10. Shiwei Hu & Steven Brakman & Charles van Marrewijk, 2014. "Smart Cities are Big Cities - Comparative Advantage in Chinese Cities," CESifo Working Paper Series 5028, CESifo Group Munich.
    11. Howell, Anthony, 2017. "Impacts of Migration and Remittances on Ethnic Income Inequality in Rural China," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 94(C), pages 200-211.
    12. repec:eee:chieco:v:46:y:2017:i:c:p:208-228 is not listed on IDEAS
    13. Nong Zhu & Cecile Batisse, 2015. "Activité indépendante, inégalité et pauvreté des immigrants au Canada," CIRANO Working Papers 2015s-31, CIRANO.
    14. Bang, James T. & Mitra, Aniruddha & Wunnava, Phanindra V., 2016. "Do remittances improve income inequality? An instrumental variable quantile analysis of the Kenyan case," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 58(C), pages 394-402.

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