Online Extra: Zhongyuan Liu

In summer 2017, Zhongyuan Liu, a doctoral candidate in agriculture and applied economics, spent several weeks in his native China as the winner of a 2018 Graduate International Travel Award from the CAES Office of Global Programs.

There he collected data to support his dissertation on understanding labor misallocation in China, but his interest in the topic has roots in his family’s personal experience.

“When I was 6 years old, my parents migrated from our village in a very poor and remote area to a city in Eastern China to find better paying jobs,” Liu said. “In China, migration for work is a great phenomenon; 280 million people migrated for work in China in 2017, mostly from rural areas to cities. Agricultural production is the main source of income in these small, poor villages, and most migrants still hold land in their hometowns where family members grow crops and vegetables to sell in the rural market.”

Although many people migrate to cities for work, a large portion of the population, about 46 percent, still live and work in rural areas, though the income gap between rural wages and city wages is immense, Liu said.

“I am interested in why these villages hold such a large population. Although the migrant population is large, few of these people want to settle in the cities. They migrate between the cities and their hometowns,” Liu said, adding that most migrant workers are young men or couples who seek employment in construction or manufacturing, while older women and young children remain behind in their home villages.

After earning his undergraduate degree in economics at Nanjing Agricultural University in China and a master’s degree at the University of Delaware, Liu chose to apply to CAES because he found faculty willing to support his research ideas.

“My advisor, Jeff Dorfman, was looking for a graduate assistant to help with his work on SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), but he was open to my questions about pursuing my own topics of research on economic issues in rural China after that project was completed. He was open with regard to my research and he encouraged me to think about my own research questions in new ways,” Liu said. “The faculty in our department also had diverse research backgrounds and experiences and I felt that diversity of background could give me many different avenues and options for research.”    

Liu appreciates the doctorate-level courses that have been designed for his major and the interdisciplinary opportunities available through classes offered at the Department of Economics in UGA’s Terry College of Business.

“It is good to learn the theories of economics, and then, in our Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics, to apply these theories to reality. Courses in our department give me the ability to solve the problems I see,” said Liu, who hopes to have an impact on agricultural policy to improve the welfare of agricultural populations, in the U.S. and in China.

By Maria M. Lameiras

Zhongyang Liu