Chemical Fertilizer and Migration in China

33 Pages Posted: 24 Jul 2011 Last revised: 14 Feb 2021

See all articles by Avraham Y. Ebenstein

Avraham Y. Ebenstein

Harvard University; University of California, Berkeley - Department of Economics

Jian Zhang

Central University of Finance & Economics - School of Economics

Margaret McMillan

Tufts University - Department of Economics; International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI); National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Kevin Chen

Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS); International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)

Date Written: July 2011

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

Ebenstein, Avraham Y. and Zhang, Jian and McMillan, Margaret and Chen, Kevin, Chemical Fertilizer and Migration in China (July 2011). NBER Working Paper No. w17245, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1893389

Avraham Y. Ebenstein (Contact Author)

Harvard University ( email )

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University of California, Berkeley - Department of Economics ( email )

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HOME PAGE: http://www.demog.berkeley.edu/~ebenstei

Jian Zhang

Central University of Finance & Economics - School of Economics ( email )

Beijing 100081
China

Margaret McMillan

Tufts University - Department of Economics ( email )

Medford, MA 02155
United States

International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) ( email )

1201 Eye St, NW,
Washington, DC 20005
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Kevin Chen

Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) ( email )

United States

International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) ( email )

1201 Eye St, NW,
Washington, DC 20005
United States

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