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Wealth Accumulation and Distribution in Urban China

  • Meng, Xin

    ()

    (Australian National University)

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Under socialism it was neither possible nor necessary to accumulate significant levels of personal wealth. The acceleration of economic reform in the last decade, however, has brought dramatic increases in income and investment opportunities. Reform has also reduced social protections provided by the state welfare system. In response to these changes, between 1995 and 2002, urban average real household net total wealth increased by 24 per cent per annum. There is a concern, however, that those accumulating wealth are the economic and political elites while those unable to accumulate wealth are the most vulnerable workers who are losing social protection. Using Chinese urban survey data of 1995, 1999, and 2002, this paper investigates this issue. It is found that households with above average income have accumulated more wealth than their poorer counterparts. In addition, a large proportion of this wealth accumulation may be from non-earned sources, such as buying larger and better housing at highly subsidized prices. Furthermore, party members and their children have benefited a great deal from this fast wealth accumulation process. Although at lower rates, the poor and vulnerable have also been able to accumulate wealth.

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Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 2553.

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Length: 40 pages
Date of creation: Jan 2007
Date of revision:
Publication status: published in: Economic Development and Cultural Change, 2007, 55 (4), 761-791
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp2553
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  1. Meng, Xin, 2003. "Unemployment, consumption smoothing, and precautionary saving in urban China," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 31(3), pages 465-485, September.
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  3. Morduch, Jonathan & Sicular, Terry, 2000. "Politics, growth, and inequality in rural China: does it pay to join the Party?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 77(3), pages 331-356, September.
  4. Ferreira, Francisco H. G., 1997. "Economic transition and the distributions of income and wealth," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1808, The World Bank.
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  7. Arie Kapteyn & Rob Alessie & Annamaria Lusardi, 1999. "Explaining the Wealth Holdings of Different Cohorts: Productivity Growth and Social Security," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 99-069/3, Tinbergen Institute.
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  9. Appleton, Simon & Song, Lina & Xia, Qingjie, 2005. "Has China crossed the river? The evolution of wage structure in urban China during reform and retrenchment," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 33(4), pages 644-663, December.
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  14. 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.
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  21. Michael Alexeev, 1999. "The effect of privatization on wealth distribution in Russia," The Economics of Transition, The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, vol. 7(2), pages 449-465, July.
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