The Evolution of Income Inequality in Rural China
AbstractWe document the evolution of the income distribution in rural China, from 1987 through 1999, with an emphasis on investigating increases in inequality associated with transition and economic development. With a backdrop of perceived improvements in average living standards, we ask whether increases of inequality may have offset, or even threaten welfare gains associated with economic reforms. The centerpiece of the paper is an empirical analysis based on a set of household surveys conducted by the China’s Research Center for Rural Economy (RCRE) in Beijing. These surveys permit us to construct a set of comparable estimates of household income and consumption from a panel of over 100 villages from nine Chinese provinces. We provide a variety of summary statistics, including Gini coefficients, as well as more nonparametric summaries of the income distribution (i.e., Lorenz curves). In addition, we decompose the sources of inequality, exploring the contributions of spatial inequality to overall inequality, and the role of non-agricultural incomes in explaining rising dispersion of incomes. We find that the distribution of income improved by most measures during the early part of the period, as average incomes rose substantially with only a modest increase in inequality. However, the distribution has worsened significantly since 1995, with rising inequality, and falling absolute incomes, especially at the bottom end of the income distribution. We attribute most of the recent decline in welfare to collapsing agricultural incomes, probably brought about by lower farm prices. At the same time, increasing non-farm incomes have widened the gaps between those with and without access to nonagricultural opportunities. Based on explorations with different data sets, our RCRE-based results probably understate the divergence due to non-agricultural income growth and the increase in inequality over time. Our results highlight the need for further evaluation of the role of farming as a source of income in the countryside, and also underline the limitations of a land-based (and essentially grain-based) income support and redistribution mechanisms.
Download InfoIf you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.
Bibliographic InfoPaper provided by William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan in its series William Davidson Institute Working Papers Series with number 2004-654.
Length: 54 pages
Date of creation: 01 Feb 2004
Date of revision:
Contact details of provider:
Postal: 724 E. University Ave, Wyly Hall 1st Flr, Ann Arbor MI 48109
Phone: 734 763-5020
Fax: 734 763 5850
Web page: http://www.wdi.umich.edu
More information through EDIRC
Rural inequality; China; welfare and transition; poverty; farm incomes;
Other versions of this item:
- P36 - Economic Systems - - Socialist Institutions and Their Transitions - - - Consumer Economics; Health; Education and Training; Welfare, Income, Wealth, and Poverty
- D3 - Microeconomics - - Distribution
- O15 - Economic Development, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration
This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:
- NEP-ALL-2004-05-09 (All new papers)
- NEP-DEV-2004-05-09 (Development)
- NEP-SEA-2004-05-09 (South East Asia)
- NEP-TRA-2004-05-09 (Transition Economics)
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
- Keith Griffin & Azizur Rahman Khan & Carl Riskin, 1999. "Income Distribution in Urban China during the Period of Economic Reform and Globalization," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(2), pages 296-300, May.
- Rawski, Thomas G., 2001. "What is happening to China's GDP statistics?," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 12(4), pages 347-354.
- Garcia-Penalosa, Cecilia & Aghion, Philippe & Caroli, Eve, 1999. "Inequality and Economic Growth: The Perspective of the New Growth Theories," Economics Papers from University Paris Dauphine 123456789/10091, Paris Dauphine University.
- Chen, Shaohua & Ravallion, Martin, 1996. "Data in transition: Assessing rural living standards in Southern China," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 7(1), pages 23-56.
- Cai, Fang & Wang, Dewen & Du, Yang, 2002. "Regional disparity and economic growth in China: The impact of labor market distortions," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 13(2-3), pages 197-212.
- Jeff Dayton-Johnson and Pranab Bardhan., 1996.
"Inequality and Conservation on the Local Commons: A Theoretical Exercise,"
Center for International and Development Economics Research (CIDER) Working Papers
C96-071, University of California at Berkeley.
- Jeff Dayton-Johnson & Pranab Bardhan, 2002. "Inequality And Conservation On The Local Commons: A Theoretical Exercise," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 112(481), pages 577-602, July.
- Dayton-Johnson, Jeff & Bardhan, Pranab, 1996. "Inequality and Conservation on the Local Commons: A Theoretical Exercise," Center for International and Development Economics Research, Working Paper Series qt7f9913w9, Center for International and Development Economics Research, Institute for Business and Economic Research, UC Berkeley.
- Shorrocks, Anthony F, 1983. "The Impact of Income Components on the Distribution of Family Incomes," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 98(2), pages 311-26, May.
- Shorrocks, A F, 1982. "Inequality Decomposition by Factor Components," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 50(1), pages 193-211, January.
- Banerjee, Abhijit V & Duflo, Esther, 2003.
" Inequality and Growth: What Can the Data Say?,"
Journal of Economic Growth,
Springer, vol. 8(3), pages 267-99, September.
- 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.
- Dwayne Benjamin & Loren Brandt, 2000.
"Property Rights, Labor Markets, and Efficiency in a Transition Economy: The Case of Rural China,"
benjamin-00-02, University of Toronto, Department of Economics.
- Dwayne Benjamin & Loren Brandt, 2002. "Property rights, labour markets, and efficiency in a transition economy: the case of rural China," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 35(4), pages 689-716, November.
- Loren Brandt & Dwayne Benjamin, 2002. "Property Rights, Labour Markets, and Efficiency in a Transition Economy: The Case of Rural China," William Davidson Institute Working Papers Series 518, William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan.
- Cecilia Garcia-Penalosa & Eve Caroli & Philippe Aghion, 1999.
"Inequality and Economic Growth: The Perspective of the New Growth Theories,"
Journal of Economic Literature,
American Economic Association, vol. 37(4), pages 1615-1660, December.
- Aghion, Philippe & Caroli, Eve & Garcia-Penalosa, Cecilia, 1999. "Inequality and economic growth: the perspective of the new growth theories," CEPREMAP Working Papers (Couverture Orange) 9908, CEPREMAP.
- Angus Deaton, 2003.
"Measuring Poverty in a Growing World (or Measuring Growth in a Poor World),"
NBER Working Papers
9822, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- Angus Deaton, 2005. "Measuring Poverty in a Growing World (or Measuring Growth in a Poor World)," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 87(1), pages 1-19, February.
- Angus Deaton, 2004. "Measuring poverty in a growing world (or measuring growth in a poor world)," Working Papers deaton_measuringpoverty_2, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Research Program in Development Studies..
- Gustafsson, Bjorn & Shi, Li, 2002. "Income inequality within and across counties in rural China 1988 and 1995," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 69(1), pages 179-204, October.
- Haddad, Lawrence & Kanbur, Ravi, 1990.
"How Serious Is the Neglect of Intra-Household Inequality?,"
Royal Economic Society, vol. 100(402), pages 866-81, September.
- Haddad, L. & Kanbur, R., 1989. "How Serious Is The Neglectof Intra-Household Inequality?," Papers 450, Stockholm - International Economic Studies.
- Haddad, Lawrence & Kanbur, Ravi, 1989. "How serious is the neglect of intrahousehold inequality ?," Policy Research Working Paper Series 296, The World Bank.
- Hongyi Li & Lyn Squire & Tao Zhang & Heng-fu Zou, 1999.
"A Data Set on Income Distribution,"
CEMA Working Papers
575, China Economics and Management Academy, Central University of Finance and Economics.
- Jonathan Morduch & Terry Sicular, 2002.
"Rethinking Inequality Decomposition, With Evidence from Rural China,"
Royal Economic Society, vol. 112(476), pages 93-106, January.
- Jonathan Morduch & Terry Sicular, 1998. "Rethinking Inequality Decomposition, with Evidence from Rural China," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1831, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
- Benjamin, Dwayne & Brandt, Loren, 1997. "Land, Factor Markets, and Inequality in Rural China: Historical Evidence," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 34(4), pages 460-494, October.
- Kai-yuen, Tsui, 1998. "Trends and Inequalities of Rural Welfare in China: Evidence from Rural Households in Guangdong and Sichuan," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 26(4), pages 783-804, December.
- Klaus Deininger & Lyn Squire, 1996.
"A New Data Set Measuring Income Inequality,"
CEMA Working Papers
512, China Economics and Management Academy, Central University of Finance and Economics.
- Kanbur, Ravi & Zhang, Xiaobo, 1999. "Which Regional Inequality? The Evolution of Rural-Urban and Inland-Coastal Inequality in China from 1983 to 1995," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 27(4), pages 686-701, December.
- Rozelle Scott, 1994. "Rural Industrialization and Increasing Inequality: Emerging Patterns in China's Reforming Economy," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(3), pages 362-391, December.
- Hare, Denise, 1994. "Rural nonagricultural activities and their impact on the distribution of income: Evidence from farm households in Southern China," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 5(1), pages 59-82.
- Ravallion, Martin & Shaohua Chen, 1998. "When economic reform is faster than statistical reform - measuring and explaining inequality in rural China," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1902, The World Bank.
This item has more than 25 citations. To prevent cluttering this page, these citations are listed on a separate page. reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.Access and download statisticsgeneral information about how to correct material in RePEc.
For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Laurie Gendron).
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.