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The Institutional Causes of China's Great Famine, 1959-61

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  • Xin Meng
  • Nancy Qian
  • Pierre Yared

Abstract

This paper investigates the institutional causes of China's Great Famine. It presents two empirical findings: 1) in 1959, when the famine began, food production was almost three times more than population subsistence needs; and 2) regions with higher per capita food production that year suffered higher famine mortality rates, a surprising reversal of a typically negative correlation. A simple model based on historical institutional details shows that these patterns are consistent with the policy outcomes in a centrally planned economy in which the government is unable to easily collect and respond to new information in the presence of an aggregate shock to production.

Suggested Citation

  • Xin Meng & Nancy Qian & Pierre Yared, 2010. "The Institutional Causes of China's Great Famine, 1959-61," NBER Working Papers 16361, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:16361
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    1. “The Institutional Causes of China’s Great Famine, 1959-1961,” X. Meng, N. Qian & P. Yared (2011)
      by afinetheorem in A Fine Theorem on 2013-05-19 09:43:59

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • N45 - Economic History - - Government, War, Law, International Relations, and Regulation - - - Asia including Middle East
    • O43 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - Institutions and Growth
    • P16 - Economic Systems - - Capitalist Systems - - - Political Economy of Capitalism
    • P21 - Economic Systems - - Socialist Systems and Transition Economies - - - Planning, Coordination, and Reform

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