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How does labor transfer affect environmental pollution in rural China? Evidence from a survey


  • Shao, Shuai
  • Li, Baoli
  • Fan, Meiting
  • Yang, Lili


In the context of increasingly serious rural environmental pollution in China, this paper specifically examines the impact of China's rural labor transfer (RLT) on rural environmental pollution. Based on the micro data of rural communities from the Chinese Family Database and the China Community Governance Survey, we investigate the impacts of RLT on agricultural pollution (AP), rural industrial pollution (RIP), and rural domestic pollution (RDP). Furthermore, we identify the mechanisms of RLT affecting rural environmental pollution by applying the mediation effect model. The results show that, with more migrant labors flowing out of the village, the probabilities of AP and RIP decrease, while the probability of RDP increases. However, different transfer modes have heterogeneous effects on rural environmental pollution. When RLT includes the whole family, higher probabilities of AP, RIP, and RDP will present, while RLT with some (but not all) family members gives rise to higher probabilities of AP and RDP, and a lower probability of RIP. In addition, the effects of RLT on the above three types of pollution are different between communities with labor net inflow and labor net outflow. Labor net outflow significantly aggravates the probabilities of AP and RDP in the outflow communities, but reduces the probability of RIP. In contrast, labor net inflow significantly increases the probability of RIP in the inflow communities. The results of mechanism analysis reveal that RLT increases the probability of AP by increasing the proportion of left-behind elderly and children, but lessens the probability of AP by increasing the amount of idle cultivated land. Moreover, RLT renders communities less likely to suffer from RIP, because RLT lowers the probability of high-polluting enterprises moving into communities. However, by improving rural residents' per capita disposable income, RLT increases the likelihood of communities exposing to RDP.

Suggested Citation

  • Shao, Shuai & Li, Baoli & Fan, Meiting & Yang, Lili, 2021. "How does labor transfer affect environmental pollution in rural China? Evidence from a survey," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 102(C).
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:eneeco:v:102:y:2021:i:c:s0140988321003972
    DOI: 10.1016/j.eneco.2021.105515

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