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Chemical Fertilizer and Migration in China

  • Avraham Ebenstein
  • Jian Zhang
  • Margaret S. McMillan
  • Kevin Chen

This paper examines a possible connection between China's massive rural to urban migration and high chemical fertilizer use rates during the late 1980s and 1990s. Using panel data on villages in rural China (1987-2002), we find that labor out-migration and fertilizer use per hectare are positively correlated. Using 2SLS, employing the opening of a Special Economic Zone in a nearby city as an instrument, we find that village fertilizer use is linked to contemporaneous short-term out-migration of farm workers. We also examine the long-term environmental consequences of chemical fertilizer use during this period. Using OLS, we find that fertilizer use intensity is correlated with future fertilizer use rates and diminished effectiveness of fertilizer, demonstrating persistency in use patterns, and suggesting that in areas with high use of fertilizer, the land is becoming less responsive. We also demonstrate that fertilizer use within a river basin is correlated with organic forms of water pollution, suggesting that industrialization has induced pollution in China both directly and through its impact on rural labor supply.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w17245.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 17245.

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Date of creation: Jul 2011
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:17245
Note: EEE ITI
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  1. Xiaohua Yu & Guoqing Zhao, 2009. "Chinese agricultural development in 30 years: A literature review," Frontiers of Economics in China, Springer, vol. 4(4), pages 633-648, December.
  2. Lin, Justin Yifu, 1992. "Rural Reforms and Agricultural Growth in China," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(1), pages 34-51, March.
  3. Fan, Shenggan & Pardey, Philip G., 1997. "Research, productivity, and output growth in Chinese agriculture," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 53(1), pages 115-137, June.
  4. Huang, Jikun & Rozelle, Scott, 1996. "Technological change: Rediscovering the engine of productivity growth in China's rural economy," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 49(2), pages 337-369, May.
  5. John Giles & Kyeongwon Yoo, 2007. "Precautionary Behavior, Migrant Networks, and Household Consumption Decisions: An Empirical Analysis Using Household Panel Data from Rural China," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 89(3), pages 534-551, August.
  6. YU Xiaohua & ZHAO Guoqing, 2009. "Chinese agricultural development in 30 years: A literature review," Frontiers of Economics in China, Higher Education Press, vol. 4(4), pages 633-648, December.
  7. Avraham Ebenstein, 2012. "The Consequences of Industrialization: Evidence from Water Pollution and Digestive Cancers in China," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 94(1), pages 186-201, February.
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