During the last 40 years, China has undergone rapid urbanization which has resulted in land degradation and a decrease in land. Cultivated land protection has thus become one of the most active and important aspects of land science. This study presents a pressure-response-impact (PRI) framework which may reveal the inter-correlations among households’ land-use behavior and cultivated land quality change in the process of rapid urbanization in China. The structural equation model (SEM) has been applied using a household survey dataset collected in 2015 in Sujiatun district, Shenyang city, Liaoning province. The results show that: (1) there is a complex causal relationship between the latent variables urbanization, household land-use behavior and cultivated land quality (i.e., urbanization → land-use behavior → land quality), which supports our PRI conceptual framework; (2) the changes of external social-economic context stemming from urbanization are the major cause of land-use behavior variance; (3) land quality is mostly affected by farmers’ land-use behavior including land-use pattern, land-use degree and land-input intensity, in particular the growing of cash crops (GCC, associated with land use pattern) and capital input per unit of farmland (LII, associated with land input intensity). These findings are of some theoretical and practical significance. Theoretically, they add to the current literature by identifying the roles of sociological factors and farmers’ land-use behavior in the process of land quality protection using a PRI framework. Practically, measures should be taken to reasonably set the prices of agricultural products, promote the development of the land rental market and increase the comparative revenue of agricultural production, so as to stimulate incentives to farming and land quality protection.
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