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The Effects of Migration on Collective Action in the Commons: Evidence from Rural China

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  • Wang, Yahua
  • Chen, Chunliang
  • Araral, Eduardo

Abstract

Over the past three decades, scholars have studied the effects of more than three dozen factors on collective action in the commons but little is known about the effects of rural to urban migration. We examine this question with the case of China, which has the world’s most extensive levels of rural to urban migration. Using OLS, Logit and Probit models and data from a survey of 1,780 households from 18 provinces, we find that migration has a statistically significant adverse effect on collective irrigation controlling for a large number of theoretically relevant variables. The effects of migration on collective action in the commons are possibly mediated by a number of factors frequently identified in the literature, including leadership, social capital, sense of community, economic heterogeneity, and dependence on resources. We speculate that massive out migration partly explains the significant drop in the use of collective canal irrigation and exacerbated the significant increase in groundwater irrigation since the start of reforms in 1980s. These findings have important policy implications for commons governance in China given that massive rural to urban migration will continue in the next decade. Because of the increasing rural to urban migration worldwide especially in developing countries, the findings could also partly explain the deteriorating state of rural village infrastructure, natural common pool resources and ecological systems in many developing countries.

Suggested Citation

  • Wang, Yahua & Chen, Chunliang & Araral, Eduardo, 2016. "The Effects of Migration on Collective Action in the Commons: Evidence from Rural China," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 88(C), pages 79-93.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:wdevel:v:88:y:2016:i:c:p:79-93
    DOI: 10.1016/j.worlddev.2016.07.014
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    3. Hao Wang & Jan Fidrmuc & Qi Luo & Mingzhong Luo, 2018. "What Stayers Do? Capital Endowments and On-Farm Transitions in Rural China," CESifo Working Paper Series 7306, CESifo.
    4. Su, Yiqing & Araral, Eduardo & Wang, Yahua, 2020. "The effects of farmland use rights trading and labor outmigration on the governance of the irrigation commons: Evidence from China," Land Use Policy, Elsevier, vol. 91(C).
    5. Ahmed Soliman & Andreas Thiel & Matteo Roggero, 2021. "Institutional Performance of Collective Irrigation Systems: A Fuzzy Set Qualitative Comparative Analysis in the Nile Delta of Egypt," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 13(3), pages 1-29, January.
    6. Akuriba, M. & Haagsma, R. & Heerink, N. & Dittoh, S., 2018. "Sustaining small scale irrigation systems: the role of users," 2018 Conference, July 28-August 2, 2018, Vancouver, British Columbia 277280, International Association of Agricultural Economists.
    7. Zang, Liangzhen & Araral, Eduardo & Wang, Yahua, 2019. "Effects of land fragmentation on the governance of the commons: Theory and evidence from 284 villages and 17 provinces in China," Land Use Policy, Elsevier, vol. 82(C), pages 518-527.
    8. Wang, Yahua & Chen, Sicheng & Araral, Eduardo, 2021. "The mediated effects of urban proximity on collective action in the commons: Theory and evidence from China," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 142(C).
    9. Chai, Ying & Zhang, Haoran & Luo, Yong & Wang, Yi & Zeng, Yunmin, 2021. "Payments for ecosystem services programs, institutional bricolage, and common pool resource management: Evidence from village collective-managed irrigation systems in China," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 182(C).
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    12. Nie, Zihan & Yang, Xiaojun & Tu, Qin, 2020. "Resource scarcity and cooperation: Evidence from a gravity irrigation system in China," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 135(C).

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