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Economic development and the role of women in rural China

Authors Benjamin, Dwayne
Brandt, Loren
Lee, Daniel
Issue Date 2002-09-26
Summary Economic reform has brought many changes to China’s rural economy in the past two decades, as reflected in a combination of rapid economic growth, rural industrialization, structural change, and sharp reductions in fertility. This paper explores the impact of economic growth and market development on the changing economic role of women in rural China. In China, recent studies examining female relative wages in industry and urban areas (Meng 1998; Liu et al. 2000 and Meng et al. 1995), and female labor force participation in the rural non-farm sector (Entwisle et al. 1995; Mathews and Nee 2000) find that while market development reduces the male-female wage differential, its effect on female labor participation is less clear. As a result, the link between market development and the contribution of women to household income is unclear. The major challenge in the empirical work is the measurement of individual contributions to farm production, given that only household farm income is observed. This problem I resolve by using individual labor supply in agricultural production to estimate the relative contributions of women and men. A panel household-level data set collected by CHNS in 1991, 1993, and 1997 that contains more than 1400 households is used to conduct the empirical analysis. Both fixed effect and random effect models that eliminate the effect of unobserved household characteristics are estimated. The most remarkable observation is that both women and men are moving out of agriculture, confirming that women are not left on the farm in the process of economic development. However, the effect of economic development, as proxied by village per- capita income, is more significant for men. Consequently, the gap between male and female contributions to household income is widening in high economic growth areas.
Language English
Format Working paper
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