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Capital Accumulation, Private Property, and Rising Inequality in China, 1978–2015

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  • Thomas Piketty
  • Li Yang
  • Gabriel Zucman

Abstract

We combine national accounts, surveys, and new tax data to study the accumulation and distribution of income and wealth in China from 1978 to 2015. The national wealth-income ratio increased from 350 percent in 1978 to 700 percent in 2015, while the share of public property in national wealth declined from 70 percent to 30 percent. We provide sharp upward revision of official inequality estimates. The top 10 percent income share rose from 27 percent to 41 percent between 1978 and 2015; the bottom 50 percent share dropped from 27 percent to 15 percent. China's inequality levels used to be close to Nordic countries and are now approaching US levels.

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  • Thomas Piketty & Li Yang & Gabriel Zucman, 2019. "Capital Accumulation, Private Property, and Rising Inequality in China, 1978–2015," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 109(7), pages 2469-2496, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:109:y:2019:i:7:p:2469-96
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/aer.20170973
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
    • E01 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - General - - - Measurement and Data on National Income and Product Accounts and Wealth; Environmental Accounts
    • E23 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Production
    • O11 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Macroeconomic Analyses of Economic Development
    • P24 - Economic Systems - - Socialist Systems and Transition Economies - - - National Income, Product, and Expenditure; Money; Inflation
    • P26 - Economic Systems - - Socialist Systems and Transition Economies - - - Political Economy
    • P36 - Economic Systems - - Socialist Institutions and Their Transitions - - - Consumer Economics; Health; Education and Training; Welfare, Income, Wealth, and Poverty

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