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Household Livelihood Differentiation and Vulnerability to Climate Hazards in Rural China

Qing Tian and Maria Carmen Lemos

World Development, 2018, vol. 108, issue C, 321-331

Abstract: Rural households in the developing world increasingly participate in urban and broader economies. While nonfarm income may reduce their dependence on climate-reliant agricultural activities, how the diversification of income and livelihoods affects rural households’ vulnerability is complex because of many interacting stressors at play. This study uses household survey data collected in the Poyang Lake area of China—a region historically vulnerable to flooding—to analyze rural vulnerability against the background of state-led development. We look at the three components of climate vulnerability: exposure, sensitivity, and adaptive capacity, and focus on examining households’ allocations of assets and labor to illustrate the complex processes that affect rural livelihoods and households’ adaptive capacity. We find that overall sensitivity to flooding has been reduced, particularly for those households with relatively high exposure. These changes suggest increased adaptive capacity and reduced flood vulnerability relative to the commune period and are the result of two main processes. First, the livelihoods of rural households have become increasingly differentiated amid broad industrial and urban development; and second, the presence of regional flood risk management has reduced exposure for agriculture-oriented households.

Keywords: vulnerability; adaptation; exposure; sensitivity; adaptive capacity; livelihoods approach; complex processes; floods; Poyang Lake (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2018
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