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China's Income Distribution over Time: Reasons for Rising Inequality

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  • Wu, Ximing
  • Perloff, Jeffrey M.

Abstract

We use a new method to estimate China’s income distributions using publicly available interval summary statistics from China’s largest national household survey. We examine rural, urban, and overall income distributions for each year from 1985-2001. By estimating the entire distributions, we can show how the distributions change directly as well as examine trends in traditional welfare indices such as the Gini. We find that inequality has increased substantially in both rural and urban areas. Using an inter-temporal decomposition of aggregate inequality, we determine that increases in inequality within the rural and urban sectors and the growing gap in rural and urban incomes have been equally responsible for the growth in overall inequality over the last two decades. However, the rural-urban income gap has played an increasingly important role in recent years. In contrast, only the growth of inequality within rural and urban areas is responsible for the increase in inequality in the United States, where the overall inequality is close to that of China. We also show that urban consumption inequality (which may be a better indicator of economic well-being than income inequality) rose considerably.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Department of Agricultural & Resource Economics, UC Berkeley in its series Department of Agricultural & Resource Economics, UC Berkeley, Working Paper Series with number qt166747gz.

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Date of creation: 01 Feb 2004
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Handle: RePEc:cdl:agrebk:qt166747gz

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Keywords: economic development; income distribution;

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  1. T. Paul Schultz, 2004. "Human Resources in China: The Birth Quota, Returns to Schooling, and Migration," Yale School of Management Working Papers ysm366, Yale School of Management.
  2. Krueger, Dirk & Perri, Fabrizio, 2005. "Does income inequality lead to consumption inequality? Evidence and theory," CFS Working Paper Series 2005/15, Center for Financial Studies (CFS).
  3. Dale W. Jorgenson, 1998. "Did We Lose the War on Poverty?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 12(1), pages 79-96, Winter.
  4. Keane, Michael & Prasad, Eswar, 2001. "Social Transfers and Inequality During the Polish Transition," MPRA Paper 54326, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  5. Dennis Tao Yang, 1999. "Urban-Biased Policies and Rising Income Inequality in China," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(2), pages 306-310, May.
  6. Wu, Ximing, 2003. "Calculation of maximum entropy densities with application to income distribution," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 115(2), pages 347-354, August.
  7. Burkhauser, Richard V. & Butler, J. S. & Feng, Shuaizhang & Houtenville, Andrew J., 2004. "Long term trends in earnings inequality: what the CPS can tell us," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 82(2), pages 295-299, February.
  8. D. Ormoneit & H. White, 1999. "An efficient algorithm to compute maximum entropy densities," Econometric Reviews, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 18(2), pages 127-140.
  9. Milanovic, Branko, 1995. "Poverty, inequality, and social policy in transition economies," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1530, The World Bank.
  10. Golan, Amos & Judge, George G. & Miller, Douglas, 1996. "Maximum Entropy Econometrics," Staff General Research Papers 1488, Iowa State University, Department of Economics.
  11. Ravallion, Martin & Chen, Shaohua, 1999. " When Economic Reform Is Faster Than Statistical Reform: Measuring and Explaining Income Inequality in Rural China," Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, vol. 61(1), pages 33-56, February.
  12. Simon Kuznets, 1950. "Shares of Upper Income Groups in Income and Savings," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number kuzn50-1.
  13. Mookherjee, Dilip & Shorrocks, Anthony F, 1982. "A Decomposition Analysis of the Trend in UK Income Inequality," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 92(368), pages 886-902, December.
  14. Xin Meng, 2004. "Economic Restructuring and Income Inequality in Urban China," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 50(3), pages 357-379, 09.
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  1. Review: Spirit Level
    by Matt Nolan in The Invisible Hand in Economics on 2013-07-17 19:30:26
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Cited by:
  1. James K. Galbraith & Ludmila Krytynskaia & Qifei Wang, 2004. "The Experience of Rising Inequality in Russia and China during the Transition," European Journal of Comparative Economics, Cattaneo University (LIUC), vol. 1(1), pages 87-106, June.
  2. Gu, Xinhua & Tam, Pui Sun, 2013. "The saving–growth–inequality triangle in China," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 33(C), pages 850-857.
  3. Ling, Davina C., 2009. "Do the Chinese "Keep up with the Jones"?: Implications of peer effects, growing economic disparities and relative deprivation on health outcomes among older adults in China," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 20(1), pages 65-81, March.
  4. Alberto, Gabriele & Schettino, Francesco, 2006. "Child Mortality In China And Vietnam In A Comparative Perspective," MPRA Paper 3987, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised Dec 2006.
  5. Coes, Donald V., 2008. "Income distribution trends in Brazil and China: Evaluating absolute and relative economic growth," The Quarterly Review of Economics and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 48(2), pages 359-369, May.
  6. Mitra, Pradeep & Yemtsov, Ruslan, 2006. "Increasing inequality in transition economies : is there more to come?," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4007, The World Bank.

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