Who Sells Land?a Study in Rural Vietnam
Abstract: This paper investigates in which respect farm land sales differ from other kinds of land transaction. In an environment of relative individualization of property rights, different avenues are available to households wishing to transfer plots of agricultural land. They can either sell, make plots available on the renting market, or hand it over through non-market transmission mechanisms -mainly pre-mortem bequests, gift, or lending. In our perspective, selling is the only kind of transfer that both implies an irreversible loss of land rights and a disinvestment in local social networks. If access to land can provide a safety net against potential loss of income and consumption failure, and if local social networks play a role in protecting households against falls under poverty thresholds, then selling land increases households economic vulnerability. We use data from the Vietnamese Access to Resources Survey 2006 (VARHS) to test this hypothesis. We find that households who transfer land are either old or not very productive. Moreover, those who go through sales to exchange there plots are at once more intensely involved in off-farm activities, wealthier, more educated, better insured, and have access to more secure sources of income than all other ''land transferring" households. On the other hand, we do not find that rental transfers differ from non-market transactions in these respects, and therefore conclude that sale, as a complete loss of access to land and food producing activities, is for economically well-protected households only.