Land expropriation is a common source of grievances and resistance from farmers in China. Based on survey data, we propose that farmers’ sense of relative deprivation is one of the causes. Our study focuses on compensation distribution in villages, where village collectives are the reference for comparison. Relative deprivation is measured by the ratio of farmer compensation to the standard government compensation; the gap between these is roughly the compensation retained by village collectives. The outcome variable is farmers’ willingness to participate in village governance. The empirical test is based on 2017 data from the Chinese Family Database of Zhejiang University and compensation standards data collected by the authors. Nearly 75% of respondents received less than standard compensation, which indicates widespread relative deprivation. And the greater the relative deprivation of farmers, the more willing they are to participate in village governance.

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