This paper helps to make up for the lack of analyses on cotton farming in China. It is based on data obtained through four years of surveys in Hebei province, Northern China, from 2006 to 2009.
The results show that cotton farm holdings are quite tiny, less than one hectare. This farm size is not substantially increased for those who are able to rent land from families having in practice moved out of farming. The widespread involvement of farming family members in off-farm activities implies a degree of farming feminization. In return, the resulting income provides financial assistance for farming. Farm heads are, on average, in their early fifties, with a primary school education, slightly better than their wives. The size of their families appears to be less impacted by the one-child policy. Unmarried children, in their early twenties, are of significantly higher educational levels than their parents, particularly for girls. Thanks to this educational level, farmers' children are extensively involved in off-farm activities and are seldom engaged in farm activities, even occasionally. There are still youngsters getting into farming, but at a lower rate than the older people close to moving out. The lower educational level of these young farmers raises the question of whether they have embraced farming by default. Globally, cotton production is likely to result from fewer farmers in the future.