Nature Reserves and Households in Rural China: Migration, Off-farm Work, and Income

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Virginia Tech


Nature reserves affect the local environment and communities. I use household data from the Chinese Household Income Project (CHIP) to estimate the impacts of nature reserves on several aspects of rural households: migration, local off-farm work, and off-farm income. This thesis also examines the heterogeneous impacts of nature reserves across administrative levels, lengths of existence time, and types. To reduce selection bias, propensity scores matching (PSM) is carried out to match counties with nature reserves to counties that have a similar possibility of establishing nature reserves, but that do not yet have any. Considering that counties with nature reserves might affect their neighboring counties without nature reserves, I construct two additional samples: one that excludes adjacent counties, and the other that generates new indicators for adjacent counties to check spillover effects directly. I use models with year fixed effects and county fixed effects to estimate the impacts across samples. The estimation results show that national nature reserves (NNRs) generally decrease the possibility of migration, while the impact depends on how long the NNRs have been in place. In the short run, NNRs increase migration. Forest NNRs significantly decrease migration but increase participation in local off-farm work and off-farm income. Nonforest NNRs have positive influences on migration and off-farm income. Although both forest and nonforest NNRs increase off-farm income, the sources might be different. The off-farm income increase in counties with forest NNRs might come from local off-farm work because forest NNRs encourage local off-farm work. The off-farm income increase in counties with nonforest NNRs might come from migration work because nonforest NNRs increase migration. Provincial nature reserves (PNRs) increase the likelihood of migration and the estimates also imply that PNRs only have short-run impacts on the local communities. Forest PNRs increase migration while nonforest ones decrease migration. PNRs generally decrease participation in local off-farm work and off-farm income, except for nonforest PNRs increase both of them. The results indicate that nature reserves of different administrative levels and lengths of existence time negatively affect local off-farm participation and off-farm income. These results imply that nature reserves in China during 2002-2013 had overall negative impacts on the local livelihood.



nature reserve, protected area, migration, off-farm work, rural household