Is Feminization of Agriculture Occurring in China? Debunking the Myth and Measuring the Consequence of Women's Participation in Agriculture

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The goals of this paper are to help build a clear picture of the role of women in China's agriculture, to assess whether or not agricultural feminization has been occurring, and if so, to measure its impact on labor use, productivity, and welfare. To meet this goal, we rely on two high quality data sets that allow us to explore who is working on China's farms, and the effects of these decisions on labor use, productivity and welfare. The paper makes three main contributions. First, we establish a conceptual framework that we believe commences an effort to try to more carefully define the different dimensions of agricultural feminization and its expected consequences. Second, we make a contribution to the China literature. Perhaps surprisingly, we believe we have mostly debunked the myth that China's agriculture is becoming feminized. We also find that even if women were taking over the farm, the consequences in China would be mostly positive, from a labor supply, productivity and income point of view. Finally, there may be some lessons for the rest of the world on what policies and institutions help make women productive when they work on and manage in a nation's agricultural sector. Policies that ensure equal access to land, regulations that dictate open access to credit, and economic development strategies that encourage competitive and efficient markets all contribute to an environment in which women farmers can succeed.

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