GEOGRAPHICAL RESEARCH ›› 2010, Vol. 29 ›› Issue (5): 767-777.doi: 10.11821/yj2010050001

• Experts Forum •     Next Articles

Reductionism and geography of rural households

LI Xiao-jian1,2   

  1. 1. Research Institute of Yellow River Civilization and Sustainable Development, Henan University, Kaifeng 475001, Henan, China;
    2. Institute of Regional Sustainable Development, Henan University of Economics and Law, Zhengzhou 450002, China
  • Received:2010-03-10 Revised:2010-04-08 Online:2010-05-20 Published:2010-05-20


This paper discusses the rural households in regional development of rural area from the perspective of reductionism, suggesting the specialties of rural households in China as the unique objective of geographical research. Following this a research framework of geography of rural households has been formulated. This includes location of the rural household, spatial structure of households economic activities and their relations with geographical environment. The original location of a rural household relied heavily on natural environment and especially agricultural resources endorsement. Their relocations aim to achieve higher spatial utilization and to overcome the constraint of physical environment. Due to high population density and limited arable land, the villages are concentrated in central China, so as to form a close circular land use pattern. Although the pattern follows Tunen's theory, the mechanisms are quite different. Rural manufacturing industry has been spread in rural area and targets of migrant working are heavily affected by job opportunities and income levels rather than by spatial distances. Capital input, economic structure and geographical factors affect the income of rural households differently in different levels of development. Furthermore, the impact of capital and structure varies in coordination with their types of geographical factors. In rural development, entrepreneurship of rural households is fundamental for formation and growth of specialized villages, while the villages' resource endorsement, location, economic development history and tradition determine the direction of specialized villages. The relevant research has demonstrated the theoretical significance of geographical research of rural households, and also provides important reference for raising rural household self-developing ability, improving rural settlement and realizing rural sustainable development. Compared to geography of enterprises, geography of rural households shows differences in many aspects. The initial location of an enterprise is mainly determined by economic factors, while an initial location of a rural household is mainly determined by living conditions. The growth of an enterprise results in spatial expansion and division of organizational hierarchy, while the spatial division of a rural household is a temperate behavior, and the transregional structure exists only among the kinship-linked households. Spatial expansion of an enterprise follows contagious, hierarchy and relational channels, while a rural household is not affected by physical distance in migrant working situations. This specialty further enhances the study on geography of rural households in China.

Key words: geography of rural households, economic geography, reductionism, China’s specialty, central China, rural study