The role of non-farm incomes in reducing rural poverty and inequality in China
Chinaâ€™s record in reducing rural poverty has been nothing short of spectacular and should be a source of lessons for other countries. Rural poverty reduction is generally sought in the role of agriculture in contributing to farm incomes. However, non-farm employment in rural areas can also be a major contributor. Using detailed household survey data from Hubei province, we simulate the counterfactual of what rural householdsâ€™ incomes, poverty, and inequality would be in the absence of access to non-farm sources of income. Results show that, without non-farm employment, rural poverty would be much higher and deeper, and that income inequality would be higher as well. We find that education, proximity to town, neighborhood effects, and village effects are crucial in helping particular households gain access to these opportunities. We also find that those who stay as pure farmers have non-observable characteristics that make them much more productive in agriculture, implying positive selection on these characteristics. Moreover, participation in non-farm activities has a positive spillover effect on household farm production.
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