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Property rights, labour markets, and efficiency in a transition economy: the case of rural China


  • Dwayne Benjamin
  • Loren Brandt


We investigate the consequences of imperfect factor market development for farm efficiency in North China. We estimate the extent to which an inverse relationship in farm productivity can be attributed to the administrative (as opposed to market) allocation of land, combined with unevenly developed off-farm opportunities. Using a new household survey, we find considerable inefficiency in the use of labour. This inefficiency is alleviated by external labour markets and, to a limited degree, by administrative reallocations. The reallocations do not go far enough, however, which raises important questions about constraints on rental activity and property rights formation more generally.

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  • Dwayne Benjamin & Loren Brandt, 2002. "Property rights, labour markets, and efficiency in a transition economy: the case of rural China," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 35(4), pages 689-716, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:cje:issued:v:35:y:2002:i:4:p:689-716

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Udry, Christopher, 1996. "Gender, Agricultural Production, and the Theory of the Household," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 104(5), pages 1010-1046, October.
    2. Dwayne Benjamin & Loren Brandt & Paul Glewwe & Li Guo, 2000. "Markets, Human Capital, and Inequality: Evidence from Rural China," William Davidson Institute Working Papers Series 298, William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan.
    3. Bhalla, Surjit S., 1988. "Does land quality matter? : Theory and measurement," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 29(1), pages 45-62, July.
    4. Benjamin, Dwayne & Brandt, Loren, 1997. "Land, Factor Markets, and Inequality in Rural China: Historical Evidence," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 34(4), pages 460-494, October.
    5. Benjamin, Dwayne, 1992. "Household Composition, Labor Markets, and Labor Demand: Testing for Separation in Agricultural Household Models," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 60(2), pages 287-322, March.
    6. Benjamin, Dwayne, 1995. "Can unobserved land quality explain the inverse productivity relationship?," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 46(1), pages 51-84, February.
    7. Binswanger, Hans P. & Deininger, Klaus & Feder, Gershon, 1995. "Power, distortions, revolt and reform in agricultural land relations," Handbook of Development Economics,in: Hollis Chenery & T.N. Srinivasan (ed.), Handbook of Development Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 42, pages 2659-2772 Elsevier.
    8. John C. Ham & Kevin T. Reilly, 2002. "Testing Intertemporal Substitution, Implicit Contracts, and Hours Restriction Models of the Labor Market Using Micro Data," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(4), pages 905-927, September.
    9. Matthew A. Turner & Loren Brandt & Scott Rozelle, 1999. "Property Rights Formation and the Organization of Exchange and Production in Rural China," William Davidson Institute Working Papers Series 250, William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan.
    10. Lin, Justin Yifu, 1992. "Rural Reforms and Agricultural Growth in China," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(1), pages 34-51, March.
    11. Carter, Michael R, 1984. "Identification of the Inverse Relationship between Farm Size and Productivity: An Empirical Analysis of Peasant Agricultural Production," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 36(1), pages 131-145, March.
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    JEL classification:

    • Q15 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Agriculture - - - Land Ownership and Tenure; Land Reform; Land Use; Irrigation; Agriculture and Environment
    • O12 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Microeconomic Analyses of Economic Development


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