The role of land tenure security in promoting rural women's empowerment : Empirical evidence from rural China

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

16 Scopus Citations
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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)280-289
Journal / PublicationLand Use Policy
Online published15 May 2019
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2019


The empirical evidence from developing countries suggests that land tenure equity can be regarded as a means of promoting development by empowering women. Despite current prime laws and regulations having provided the basis for rural women to enjoy equal land rights, village rules and regulations and various informal customs have adversely affected their land tenure security under the unique villagers’ autonomy political system in rural China. Chinese rural women land tenure is therefore subject to considerable discrimination and is highly insecure due to the greater risks involved compared to those faced by men. Being entitled to land ownership does not mean women's land tenure is secure, an issue that has received little attention to date.

Accordingly, this paper aims to empirically examine whether women's tenure security ̶ legal tenure security, de facto tenure security, or economic tenure security ̶ can provide a means of improving their level of autonomy in household decision-making (used to characterize women's empowerment)in such areas as house purchases, durable goods purchases, daily necessities purchases, fertility choice, medicalcare choice, job choice, and social interaction choice. Using 2017 survey data (6073 samples)obtained for 28 provinces of rural China and employing the Tobit model for the analysis, we find that the formal title certificate is a prerequisite for realizing legal land tenure security; the risk of land expropriation and tenure disputes exacerbates the insecurity of land tenure at the de facto level; and that access to land circulation income can enhance land economic tenure security and has a significantly positive effect on women's empowerment. Moreover, we highlight the potential adverse effects of rapid urbanization on rural women's empowerment, which might further widen the rural gender gap. Our study indicates that policies enhancing land tenure security have the potential to increase women's empowerment and associated beneficial welfare effects on the development of women's rights, family, the rural economy, and also contributes to narrowing the gender opportunity gap within households.

Research Area(s)

  • Land tenure security, Rural China, Women's empowerment