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Land Tenure and Children’s Health

Evidence from China

Li Fang and Chuanhao Tian

June 2021, English

Does land tenure improve children’s wellbeing? We answer this question using a natural experiment – the 2003 Land Contract Law in China, which bans land adjustments in villages. This exogenous shock caused some children or their mothers to lose land rights, and thus provides a quasi-experimental setting for us to compare these children’s health outcomes. We find that children are 39 percent less likely to be obese if they have land rights, and 32 percent less likely to be obese if their mothers have land rights. These effects are larger for boys than girls. We show that while the ban of land adjustments in China may have improved efficiency, it also adversely affected children’s health by denying them land rights. This paper informs land reforms involving tenure security; entitling a household to land tenure does not suffice, an individualized land tenure system that recognizes women and children’s land rights is crucial for empowerment.


Segregation, Tenure