«Juanwen Yuan Thesis committee Thesis supervisor Prof. dr. A. Niehof Professor of Sociology of Consumers and Households Wageningen University Thesis ...»
In this research, social change is made visible by using a cohort analysis.
The household is the key unit in this research, defined as a “co-residential unit, usually family-based in some way, which takes care of resource management and primary needs of its members” (Rudie, 1995: 228). The effects of the introduction of the Household Responsibility System (HRS) in the research area in 1980, is the key theme in this study. The moment of household formation was used as the event to
define the household cohorts. The cohorts distinguished are the following:
• The 1970s cohort: the households formed their own independent unit during 1970-1980 and have experienced both the collective era and the HRS era.
• The 1980s cohort: the households formed their own independent unit during 1980-1990 and experienced the start of the HRS.
• The 1990s cohort: the households formed their own independent unit during 1990-2000 and only experienced the HRS era.
• The 2000s cohort: the households formed their own independent unit from 2000 to the present and only experienced the HRS era.
Each cohort shows its own features at different stages of the life course in a certain period of time and under specific circumstances. However, at the same time, we should be aware that the social change between cohorts happened gradually and that variation within cohorts has to be taken into account as well.
It was difficult to find couples from the younger cohorts because, in these two cohorts, the incidence of long-term migration is high, especially in the 2000s cohort. Since those who stayed at home may not be very representative, we extended the study to a sample of migrated households, to be able to present a comprehensive picture.
The method of collecting life histories was used to understand change among individual women in the societal context. Cohort analysis combines the changes experienced throughout the life course with historical change, by setting the same phases in the life course of different cohorts in the context of different periods in history. In this way, social change can be made visible.
In the livelihood system approach, households produce their household livelihood by using different kinds of resources. Using this approach enables us to understand the interrelationship of household, livelihood, and social stratification.
Different households have different resources and adopt different livelihood strategies, which influence land use. Household resources are different for each cohort, which brings about different livelihood strategies for each cohort, leading to different land use and technology needs.
Social change is a continuous phenomenon. Both the quantitative and the qualitative approach are considered appropriate for the study of social change.
213Conclusions and Discussion
This study used a quantitative approach to understand the current situation of farming households of different cohorts, and a qualitative approach to enable the analysis of change. Research about people’s motivations was also done by using qualitative methods.
This research shows that this way of conducting research on social change works well, and can be used in future studies about social change in rural households. More studies about rural household changes in China still need to be done by using a cohort analysis. The Household Responsibility System has been very influential in rural society. The government issued another land management policy, the forestland tenure policy of 2008. This is also an important policy that will substantially influence rural households, especially forest-dependent households. Studying the influence of this policy by making use of this type of cohort analysis could be helpful to understand its impact on these households.
Because the policy was introduced as recently as 2008, when this research would start immediately it would be possible to monitor the impacts of the implementation of this policy from the beginning.
The research area has a relatively high landholding per capita in Guizhou province. Hence, the results may not be applicable to areas where smaller landholdings prevail. The results may also not be applicable to poverty-stricken villages, where villagers may abandon the land completely, because they cannot make a living off the poor land and cannot meet the increasing need for investment in it. We can see from this research that small landholding households prefer to migrate and work as migrants as long as they can. However, they may have money to rent land after several years of migration. This is why some households come back to work in agriculture, while others are migrating. Since this study shows diverse developments, it is difficult to predict how these developments will work out in the future. Additionally, although there already are many studies on social stratification, rural social stratification in China has just started. This necessitates more research conducted at household level.
Household headship as recorded in the official registration system (hukoubu) may not be the same as actual (de facto) headship, but researchers rarely note this difference. For this reason, research findings from household surveys may be questionable. Rural household research in China still needs to go into the impacts of the changing context on households and individuals in an in-depth manner. The reason that many outside interventions, such as agricultural extension, do not succeed, is that no attention is paid to the actual dynamics and functioning of households. This is why, in the future, more attention should be given to research on household level.
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