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How Does the Heterogeneity of Family Structure Affect the Area of Land Transferred Out in the Context of Rural Revitalization?—Experience from CHIP 2013

College of Economics, Sichuan Agricultural University, Chengdu 611130, China
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Land 2023, 12(1), 110;
Submission received: 22 November 2022 / Revised: 20 December 2022 / Accepted: 27 December 2022 / Published: 29 December 2022
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Rural Land Use in China)


Using the sample data of rural households in China’s income survey (CHIP 2013), this paper divides the family structure into elite and incomplete families and analyzes the impact of family structure’s heterogeneity on land transferred out. The Tobit and Ordinary Least Squares (OLS) models are applied to achieve the study’s objectives. The results show that the elite family has a significant positive impact on the paid land subcontract area, while the incomplete family is not significant. After further refining the elite families, it is found that the influence of the families with the political status of Party members (non-grassroots cadres) on the land transfer area is more significant, while the influence of the families with the status of grassroots cadres on the land transfer area is less significant. Then, the formation mechanism of the difference between these two is discussed, which may be explained by the heterogeneity of their endowment structure, functions, and livelihood attributes. After a series of robustness tests, the results still show that elite families significantly positively impact the area of land transferred out. Finally, based on the differences in land transfer areas and the consequences of different resource endowments, the corresponding countermeasures and suggestions are put forward from the aspects of strengthening grassroots governance, legal awareness, and establishing and improving the protection mechanism of vulnerable rural groups.

1. Introduction

A significant challenge to mankind in this era is food security [1,2]. A report from FSIN (2018) indicates that 51 countries globally (approximately 124 million people) are encountering the issue of food insecurity as of 2017 [3]. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals’ (SDGs) first and second concerns emphasize eradicating extreme levels of poverty through unrestricted access to sustainable food and nutrition for good health and well-being [4]. However, one needs agricultural land to produce food for sustainable development and ensure food security. Therefore, the relevance of accessing the determinants of land transfer, a booster of proper land use, has been a concern for scholars in agricultural economics and geography in developing nations such as China [5,6,7,8].
In the past few years, under the background of the reform of the rural property rights system, land transfer has developed fast in much countryside of China and has become an important factor activating rural lands of China and improving the revenue of peasants. This shows that China’s rural land transfer institution has made phased achievements. According to the Ministry of Agriculture, by the end of 2016, the area of rural land transfer in China has achieved 471 million mu. The No.1 document of the Central Committee in 2019 emphasized: “improving the standardized management system of land transfer and developing various forms of moderate-scale agricultural operations”. Predictably, with the in-depth promotion of the rural revitalization strategy and the acceleration of the pace of national agricultural modernization, the status of land fragmentation management can no longer meet the development needs of scalable, modern, and intelligent agriculture. Undoubtedly, the scale of land transfer will expand continually in the future. In the context of the continuous introduction of various favorable policies for benefiting peasants at the central and local levels, more and more peasants have realized the value of the land.
On the one hand, wealthy families can reach scalable management by land transfer and benefit from land appreciation. On the other hand, rural families with relatively low human capital can transfer their free land to obtain some rent. Thus, what impact will the heterogeneity of family structure have on land transfer? Based on the view of supply and demand of land transfer, some scholars found that land transfer may result in widening income disparities within rural areas [9,10,11]. Some scholars have specifically analyzed the influence of political capital on the willingness of rural land transformation and found that village cadres have more power advantages in the process of rural land transfer [12,13]. Land transferred out is the front-end link of land transfer; the discussion of all related issues, including the “elite capture” of land transfer, inevitably needs to be placed in the land transferred out link; however, the impact of family structure heterogeneity on the area of land transferred out as the front end of land transfer is one of the more core issues. This paper focuses on the following two research questions. First, in the process of rural land transfer, are elite families more likely to transfer out of the land compared to non-elite families? Will it further aggravate the “Matthew effect” between the rich and the poor in rural areas? Second, within the rural elite families, is there heterogeneity between party members and grassroots cadres that then affect the area of land transfer? Undoubtedly, in the context of rural revitalization, with the combination of various types of capital and the land, research on the effect of family structure heterogeneity on land transfer area and the conclusions are conducive to better grasping the front-end of land transfer, maintaining the stability of the order of land transfer, helping local governments to resolve various contradictions and disputes caused by land transfer, maintaining local harmony and stability, and, thus, maintaining the economic and social achievements of building a well-off society in an all-round way.

2. Literature Review

In domestic and foreign scholars’ studies on land transfer, the relevant influencing factors are mainly investigated in three sequential dimensions: before-during-after. Regarding the “before land transfer” scenario, the studies mainly focus on the impact of individual endowment differences of farmers or households in different regions on willingness to transfer land or the area of the transfer or transfer out deadline. Regarding the “during land transfer” scenario, the studies mainly focus on the consideration of the transaction method or the form of land transfer. Regarding the “after land transfer” scenario, the studies mainly focus on the impact of land transfers on the changes in the welfare of the transferee.
Many scholars have conducted relevant research on the impact of family, regional, and individual endowment differences on land transfer willingness, decision-making, or transfer area. In terms of family endowment differences, the employment situation of family members is one of the important factors affecting the willingness to transfer land in rural areas. Research shows that if a family member can obtain a stable non-agricultural job in urban areas, it will promote the decision-making of family land transfer, and the member will have the greatest power in decision-making [14,15,16,17]. Further, the stronger the willingness of farmers to seek non-agricultural jobs in cities, the more inclined they are to long-term land transfer [18]. At the same time, the family income structure also has an impact on land transfer. The higher the proportion of migrant workers’ labor income in the total household income, the more likely farmers are to choose land transfer or abandonment [19]. From the perspective of regional differences, scholars used a panel dataset of 171 Chinese cities that developed high-speed rail infrastructure from 2005 to 2012 and applied the SEM model to find that the expansion of the high-speed rail network had a significant impact on the circulation of agricultural land, and the impact of high-speed rail on the circulation of agricultural land in the western region is five times that in the eastern region [20]. Specific to the differences in various rural location factors, the study found that rural site resources have a significant impact on the circulation of agricultural land. Communities with good infrastructure, that are close to towns, with sufficient labor force, and with high economic input and output do not rely on agricultural land, but natural conditions and well-connected communities rely more on agriculture [21]. From the perspective of individual endowment differences among farmers