A New Cycle: Understanding the Current Life Course of Rural Families in Western China

Tuesday, July 15, 2014: 11:15 AM
Room: Booth 42
Oral Presentation
Dai LI , Peking University, Beijing, China
Past research has proposed that with the urbanization process, Chinese agriculture is faced with prospects of industrialization and mechanization. However, rather than such transitions, we see more evidence showing a lack of labor and capital investment in agriculture in western China. This article investigates what the economical meaning of agriculture is to the rural families, and describes a generational division of roles apparently stemming from reciprocity. Using logit models and qualitative findings combined, we show that (1) agricultural income is insignificant to rural families compared to what they may earn elsewhere, so only the less capable part of labor remains home and they will not spend much time and capital in agricultural management; (2) a pattern emerges in which a peasant plays different roles at different ages: he is raised by grandparents in the country home where education is inexpensive, works in the city if possible supporting his children and parents, and returns home where livelihood is inexpensive, raising his grandchildren, hopefully with the support of his children who work in the city. We call this pattern the ‘new cycle’ as opposed to the peasants’ traditional life course which dissolved in the tension between rural-urban duality and globalization.