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Sources of ethnic inequality in Viet Nam

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  • van de Walle, Dominique
  • Gunewardena, Dileni

Abstract

Vietnam's ethnic minorities, who tend to live mostly in remote rural areas, typically have lower living standards than the ethnic majority. How much is this because of differences in economic characteristics (such as education levels and land) rather than low returns to characteristics? Is there a self-reinforcing culture of poverty in the minority groups, reflecting patterns of past discrimination? The authors find that differences in levels of living are due in part to the fact that the minorities live in less productive areas characterized by difficult terrain, poor infrastructure, less access to off-farm work and the market economy, and inferior access to education. Geographic disparities tend to persist because of immobility and regional differences in living standards. But the authors also find large differences within geographical areas even after controlling for household characteristics. They find differences in returns to productive characteristics to be the most important explanation for ethnic inequality. But the minorities do not obtain lower returns to all characteristics. There is evidence of compensating behavior. For example, pure returns to location-even in remote, inhospitable areas-tend to be higher for minorities, though not high enough to overcome the large consumption difference with the majority. The majority ethnic group's model of income generation is a poor guide on how to fight poverty among ethnic minority groups. Nor is it enough to target poor areas to redress ethnic inequality. Policies must be designed to reach minority households in poor areas and to explicitly recognize behavior patterns (including compensating behavior) that have served the minorities well in the short term but intensify ethnic inequalities in the longer term. It will be important to open up options for minority groups both by ensuring that they are not disadvantaged (in labor markets, for example), and by changing the conditions that have caused their isolation a
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Suggested Citation

  • van de Walle, Dominique & Gunewardena, Dileni, 2001. "Sources of ethnic inequality in Viet Nam," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 65(1), pages 177-207, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:deveco:v:65:y:2001:i:1:p:177-207
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Haughton, Dominique & Haughton, Jonathan, 1997. "Explaining Child Nutrition in Vietnam," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 45(3), pages 541-556, April.
    2. James Riedel & William S. Turley, 1999. "The Politics and Economics of Transition to an Open Market Economy in Viet Nam," OECD Development Centre Working Papers 152, OECD Publishing.
    3. Ravallion, Martin & Wodon, Quentin, 1997. "Poor areas, or only poor people?," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1798, The World Bank.
    4. Oaxaca, Ronald, 1973. "Male-Female Wage Differentials in Urban Labor Markets," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 14(3), pages 693-709, October.
    5. Gunderson, Morley, 1989. "Male-Female Wage Differentials and Policy Responses," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 27(1), pages 46-72, March.
    6. Dominique van de Walle, 2003. "Are Returns to Investment Lower for the Poor? Human and Physical Capital Interactions in Rural Vietnam," Review of Development Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 7(4), pages 636-653, November.
    7. Glewwe, Paul, 1988. "Economic liberalization and income inequality : Further evidence on the Sri Lankan experience," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, pages 233-246.
    8. Binswanger, Hans P. & Deininger, Klaus & Feder, Gershon, 1995. "Power, distortions, revolt and reform in agricultural land relations," Handbook of Development Economics,in: Hollis Chenery & T.N. Srinivasan (ed.), Handbook of Development Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 42, pages 2659-2772 Elsevier.
    9. Jyotsna Jalan & Martin Ravallion, 1998. "Geographic Poverty Traps?," Boston University - Institute for Economic Development 86, Boston University, Institute for Economic Development.
    10. Alan S. Blinder, 1973. "Wage Discrimination: Reduced Form and Structural Estimates," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 8(4), pages 436-455.
    11. Glenn C. Loury, 2000. "Social Exclusion and Ethnic Groups: The Challenge to Economics," Boston University - Institute for Economic Development 106, Boston University, Institute for Economic Development.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C72 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Noncooperative Games
    • D82 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Asymmetric and Private Information; Mechanism Design
    • L14 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Transactional Relationships; Contracts and Reputation

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