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The great Chinese inequality turnaround

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  • Kanbur, Ravi
  • Wang, Yue
  • Zhang, Xiaobo

Abstract

The high level of inequality in China has been a focus of interest for policy makers and researchers. However, few studies have evaluated the trend since 2010. With changes in the economic structure and new policy tools introduced in recent years, a revisit of Chinese inequality should give us the latest information about its evolution and the impacts of these economic and policy changes on income distribution. This paper argues that after a quarter century of sharp and sustained increase, Chinese inequality is now plateauing and even turning down. The argument is made using a range of data sources and a range of measures and perspectives on inequality. The evolution of inequality is further examined through decomposition by income source and population subgroup. Some preliminary explanations are provided for these trends in terms of shifts in policy and the structural transformation of the Chinese economy. The narrative on Chinese inequality now needs to focus on the reasons for this great turnaround.

Suggested Citation

  • Kanbur, Ravi & Wang, Yue & Zhang, Xiaobo, 2017. "The great Chinese inequality turnaround," IFPRI discussion papers 1637, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
  • Handle: RePEc:fpr:ifprid:1637
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    Cited by:

    1. Ravi Kanbur, 2019. "Inequality in a global perspective," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 35(3), pages 431-444.
    2. Ms. Sonali Jain-Chandra & Mr. Philippe Wingender & Rui Mano & Johanna Schauer & Niny Khor & Juzhong Zhuang, 2018. "Inequality in China – Trends, Drivers and Policy Remedies," IMF Working Papers 2018/127, International Monetary Fund.
    3. 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.
    4. Zhou, Yixiao & Tyers, Rod, 2019. "Automation and inequality in China," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 58(C).
    5. Alfonso Díez‐Minguela & Rafael González‐Val & Julio Martinez‐Galarraga & M. Teresa Sanchis & Daniel A. Tirado, 2020. "The long‐term relationship between economic development and regional inequality: South‐West Europe, 1860–2010," Papers in Regional Science, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 99(3), pages 479-508, June.
    6. Westmore, Ben, 2018. "Do government transfers reduce poverty in China? Micro evidence from five regions," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 51(C), pages 59-69.
    7. Gradín, Carlos & Wu, Binbin, 2020. "Income and consumption inequality in China: A comparative approach with India," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 62(C).
    8. Shu-gang Li & Hai-qing Shuang & Hong-sheng Wang & Ki-Il Song & Lang Liu, 2017. "Extraction of Pressurized Gas in Low Air-Conductivity Coal Seam Using Drainage Roadway," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 9(2), pages 1-11, February.
    9. Chen, Yiu Por (Vincent) & Zhang, Yuan, 2018. "A decomposition method on employment and wage discrimination and its application in urban China (2002–2013)," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 110(C), pages 1-12.
    10. Kanbur, Ravi, 2020. "Economic Inequality and Academic Freedom," Working Papers 309988, Cornell University, Department of Applied Economics and Management.
    11. 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.
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    14. Chunfeng Wei & Chuanyu Gao & Dongxue Han & Winston Zhao & Qianxin Lin & Guoping Wang, 2017. "Spatial and Temporal Variations of Water Quality in Songhua River from 2006 to 2015: Implication for Regional Ecological Health and Food Safety," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 9(9), pages 1-13, August.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    structural change; economic development; economic analysis; Chinese inequality turnaround; inequality data; inequality trends; inequality and structural transformation; harmonious development and government policy; D31 Personal Income; Wealth; and Their Distributions; O15 Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration; O53 Economywide Country Studies: Asia including Middle East; D63 Equity; Justice; Inequality; and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • O15 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration
    • O53 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economywide Country Studies - - - Asia including Middle East

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