Measuring Subsidy Success

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Science  03 Jun 2011:
Vol. 332, Issue 6034, pp. 1129
DOI: 10.1126/science.332.6034.1129-b

After devastating mudslides and floods in 1998 killed thousands of people and displaced millions, the Chinese government undertook a massive effort to fight erosion, called the Sloping Land Conversion Program (SLCP). Under the SLCP, farmers on steep slopes in the Yangtze and Yellow River basins have been given cash subsidies and rice in exchange for allowing their farmland to be restored to forest or grassland and finding jobs other than farming. Part of the goal was to promote a change in the work activities of the people living in these areas to something that would be more sustainable for the ecosystem. Li et al. surveyed 20 villages containing participants and nonparticipants in 2008 to determine the effects of this program on the economics of people in a rural area of western China. Participation in the program increased household income, especially for low- and medium-income households. Income inequality was less among households participating in the SLCP than among those that did not; however, it did not change the traditional employment of the participants in the way that had been anticipated—many were still involved in forestry-related activities or animal husbandry.

Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 108, 7721 (2011).

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