Does Social Capital Help to Reduce Farmland Abandonment? Evidence from Big Survey Data in Rural China | Land Portal

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Date of publication: 
October 2020
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© 2020 by the authors; licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article.

At a time when COVID-19 is sweeping the world, farmland abandonment is obviously not conducive to solving food security problems. Since the formal institutions of local government in China have not been effective in the reduction of farmland abandonment, this study aims to explore whether informal institutions can help mitigate this problem. Based on big survey data from 8031 farmer households in 27 provinces in mainland China, this study uses an econometric model to investigate the quantitative impact of social capital on farmland abandonment, and to analyze the channels through which that impact manifests itself. The empirical results point to the following conclusions: (i) Social capital, as a key informal institution, can help reduce farmland abandonment. More specifically, after controlling for other variables, for every unit increase in social capital, the proportion of farmland abandonment can be predicted to drop by 7.17 percentage points. (ii) Both off-farm employment and farmland rent are channels for the impact of social capital on farmland abandonment. However, social capital’s effect on increasing farmland abandonment via the promotion of off-farm employment is small when compared with its effect on reducing farmland abandonment via the promotion of farmland rent. This study’s conclusions may help generate new ideas for reducing farmland abandonment. At the same time, the study may provide a sound, empirical basis for policies aimed at reducing the negative impact of COVID-19 on food security while also revitalizing rural areas.

Authors and Publishers

Author(s), editor(s), contributor(s): 

Deng, Xin
Zeng, Miao
Xu, Dingde
Qi, Yanbin


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