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Inequality and Growth in Rural China: Does Higher Inequality Impede Growth?

Author

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  • Benjamin, Dwayne

    () (University of Toronto)

  • Brandt, Loren

    () (University of Toronto)

  • Giles, John T.

    () (World Bank)

Abstract

We explore the relationship between the level of village inequality in 1986, and the subsequent growth of household incomes from 1986 to 1999. Using a detailed household-level data set from rural China, we find robust evidence that initial inequality is negatively related to subsequent household income growth. We are able to address a number of econometric issues that affect the use of aggregate data for this exercise, especially measurement error and aggregation: Our results strongly suggest that village inequality has an external adverse impact on household-level income trajectories. However, once we account for possibly fixed village-level unobserved heterogeneity, we find no evidence that changes in inequality are correlated with household income growth: Whatever factor drives the inequality-growth relationship only operates in the “long run.” We explore several possible avenues by which initial inequality – or an unobserved variable correlated with it – affects household income growth. While we do not find the precise mechanism, our findings point toward a class of explanations based on collective choice (like the provision of public goods or determination of local taxes), and away from credit-market based explanations.

Suggested Citation

  • Benjamin, Dwayne & Brandt, Loren & Giles, John T., 2006. "Inequality and Growth in Rural China: Does Higher Inequality Impede Growth?," IZA Discussion Papers 2344, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp2344
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    Cited by:

    1. Daron Acemoglu & María Angélica Bautista & Pablo Querubín & James A. Robinson, 2007. "Economic and Political Inequality in Development: The Case of Cundinamarca, Colombia," NBER Working Papers 13208, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Li, Hongbin & Zhu, Yi, 2006. "Income, income inequality, and health: Evidence from China," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 34(4), pages 668-693, December.
    3. Yi Wen, 2011. "Making sense of China’s astronomical foreign reserves," Working Papers 2011-018, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
    4. Javier Alejo, 2013. "Relación de Kuznets en América Latina. Explorando más allá de la media condicional," Económica, Departamento de Economía, Facultad de Ciencias Económicas, Universidad Nacional de La Plata, vol. 59, pages 3-55, January-D.
    5. Peng Wang & Jay Pan & Zhehui Luo, 2015. "The Impact of Income Inequality on Individual Happiness: Evidence from China," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 121(2), pages 413-435, April.
    6. Chen, Xi & Zhang, Xiaobo, 2009. "The Distribution of Income and Well-Being in Rural China: A Survey of Panel Data Sets, Studies and New Directions," MPRA Paper 20587, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    7. Yamauchi, Futoshi & Nishiyama, Shinichi, 2005. "Community, inequality, and local public goods: Evidence from School Financing in South Africa," FCND discussion papers 201, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    8. Nissanke, Machiko & Thorbecke, Erik, 2005. "Channels and Policy Debate in the Globalization-Inequality-Poverty Nexus," WIDER Working Paper Series DP2005/08, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
    9. Ming Lu & Hong Gao, 2010. "When Globalization Meets Urbanization: Labor Market Reform, Income Inequality, and Economic Growth in the People’s Republic of China," Working Papers id:3095, eSocialSciences.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    growth; panel data; rural China; inequality;

    JEL classification:

    • O12 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Microeconomic Analyses of Economic Development
    • O15 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration
    • P20 - Economic Systems - - Socialist Systems and Transition Economies - - - General

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