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The Institutional Causes of China's Great Famine, 1959-61

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  • Meng, Xin
  • Qian, Nancy
  • Yared, Pierre

Abstract

This paper investigates the institutional causes of China's Great Famine. It presents two empirical findings: 1) in 1959, when the famine began, food production was almost three times more than population subsistence needs; and 2) regions with higher per capita food production that year suffered higher famine mortality rates, a surprising reversal of a typically negative correlation. A simple model based on historical institutional details shows that these patterns are consistent with government policy failure in a centrally planned economy in which the government is unable to easily collect and respond to new information in the presence of an aggregate shock to production.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 8012.

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Date of creation: Sep 2010
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Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:8012

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Keywords: central planning; development; food procurement; institutions; modern Chinese history; prices vs. quantities;

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References

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  1. Lin, Justin Yifu & Yang, Dennis Tao, 2000. "Food Availability, Entitlements and the Chinese Famine of 1959-61," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 110(460), pages 136-58, January.
  2. Martin Ravallion, 1997. "Famines and Economics," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 35(3), pages 1205-1242, September.
  3. Gale Johnson, D., 1998. "China's great famine: Introductory remarks," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 9(2), pages 103-109.
  4. Lin, Justin Yifu, 1990. "Collectivization and China's Agricultural Crisis in 1959-1961," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 98(6), pages 1228-52, December.
  5. Wei Li & Dennis Tao Yang, 2005. "The Great Leap Forward: Anatomy of a Central Planning Disaster," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 113(4), pages 840-877, August.
  6. Dennis Tao Yang, 2007. "China's Agricultural Crisis and Famine of 1959-61: A Survey and Comparison to Soviet Famines," Working Papers e07-4, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Department of Economics.
  7. Weitzman, Martin L, 1970. "Iterative Multilevel Planning with Production Targets," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 38(1), pages 50-65, January.
  8. Zeckhauser, Richard J, 1996. "The Economics of Catastrophes," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 12(2-3), pages 113-40, May.
  9. O'Rourke, Kevin, 1994. "The Economic Impact of the Famine in the Short and Long Run," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(2), pages 309-13, May.
  10. Matthew E. Kahn, 2005. "The Death Toll from Natural Disasters: The Role of Income, Geography, and Institutions," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 87(2), pages 271-284, May.
  11. M. L. Weitzman, 1973. "Prices vs. Quantities," Working papers 106, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  12. Dasgupta, Partha & Ray, Debraj, 1986. "Inequality as a Determinant of Malnutrition and Unemployment: Theory," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 96(384), pages 1011-34, December.
  13. Shiue, Carol H., 2004. "Local Granaries and Central Government Disaster Relief: Moral Hazard and Intergovernmental Finance in Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century China," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 64(01), pages 100-124, March.
  14. Carol H. Shiue, 2002. "Transport Costs and the Geography of Arbitrage in Eighteenth-Century China," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(5), pages 1406-1419, December.
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Blog mentions

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  1. “The Institutional Causes of China’s Great Famine, 1959-1961,” X. Meng, N. Qian & P. Yared (2011)
    by afinetheorem in A Fine Theorem on 2013-05-19 04:43:59
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Cited by:
  1. Monica Martinez-Bravo & Gerard Padró i Miquel & Nancy Qian & Yang Yao, 2012. "The Effects of Democratization on Public Goods and Redistribution: Evidence from China," NBER Working Papers 18101, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Monica Martinez-Bravo & Gerard Padró i Miquel & Nancy Qian & Yang Yao, 2011. "Do Local Elections in Non-Democracies Increase Accountability? Evidence from Rural China," NBER Working Papers 16948, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Huang, Cheng & Phillips, Michael R. & Zhang, Yali & Zhang, Jingxuan & Shi, Qichang & Song, Zhiqiang & Ding, Zhijie & Pang, Shutao & Martorell, Reynaldo, 2013. "Malnutrition in early life and adult mental health: Evidence from a natural experiment," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 97(C), pages 259-266.
  4. Douglas Almond & Hongbin Li & Shuang Zhang, 2013. "Land Reform and Sex Selection in China," NBER Working Papers 19153, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Guo Xu, 2011. "Long-Run Consequences of Natural Disasters: Evidence from Tangshan," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 1117, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.

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