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Energy use and rural poverty: Empirical evidence from potato farmers in north China


  • Li, Zihan
  • Gong, Yazhen
  • Chen, Kevin Z.


Rising energy expenditures due to more intensive use of energy in modern agriculture and increasing energy prices may affect rural households’ agricultural incomes, particularly the incomes of the rural poor in developing countries. However, the exact link between energy costs and income among the rural poor needs further empirical investigation. This paper aims to gain a deeper understanding of the relationship between energy use and family income, using household-level panel data collected from 500 potato farmers in a poor region of Northern China, where eliminating poverty by 2020 is now the top government priority. The findings indicate that potato plays an important role in the surveyed families’ incomes, and the energy costs of potato production have a significant negative relationship with family income. However, the significance of the negative relationship is robust only for farmers with low economic standing, such as those living below the poverty line or just above it. Energy costs also have a significant negative relationship with the family incomes of those cultivating a certain size of potato-sown area, but this relationship becomes insignificant when farmers have too small of a potato-sown area. These findings indicate that in general, reducing energy costs helps the poor increase their income but is not necessarily helpful to those with high economic standing or a relatively small potato-sown area. If rural development policies are to support poverty reduction and energy savings (at least in major potato production regions), interventions aimed at energy cost reduction may be effective only for the poor whose family income depends, to a relatively high degree, on potato production.

Suggested Citation

  • Li, Zihan & Gong, Yazhen & Chen, Kevin Z., 2016. "Energy use and rural poverty: Empirical evidence from potato farmers in north China," IFPRI discussion papers 1577, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
  • Handle: RePEc:fpr:ifprid:1577

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Sebri, Maamar & Abid, Mehdi, 2012. "Energy use for economic growth: A trivariate analysis from Tunisian agriculture sector," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 48(C), pages 711-716.
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    5. Hanson, Kenneth & Robinson, Sherman & Schluter, Gerald E., 1993. "Sectoral Effects Of A World Oil Price Shock: Economywide Linkages To The Agricultural Sector," Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Western Agricultural Economics Association, vol. 18(1), pages 1-21, July.
    6. Yilmaz, Ibrahim & Akcaoz, Handan & Ozkan, Burhan, 2005. "An analysis of energy use and input costs for cotton production in Turkey," Renewable Energy, Elsevier, vol. 30(2), pages 145-155.
    7. Jason Henderson, 2008. "Are energy prices threatening the farm boom?," Main Street Economist, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, issue 5.
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    energy; potatoes; poverty; smallholders; intensification; income; households;

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