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Trends in Regional Inequality in China

  • Tianlun Jian
  • Jeffrey D. Sachs
  • Andrew M. Warner

Several recent studies have examined the tendency of regions within a nation to exhibit long-term convergence in per capita income levels. Barro and Sala-i-Martin (1991, 1992, 1995) have found a tendency towards convergence among the U.S. states, among Japanese prefectures, and among regions within Western Europe. In this paper we examine the tendency towards convergence among the provinces of China during the period 1952-1993. We find that real income convergence of provinces in China has been a relatively recent phenomenon, emerging strongly only since the reform period began in 1978. During the initial phase of central planning, 1952-1965, there is some evidence for convergence, but it is weak and sensitive to the time period being analyzed. During the cultural revolution, 1965- 1978, there is strong evidence of divergence rather than convergence. We find strong evidence for convergence during the reform period is associated with rural reforms, and is especially strong within the coastal regions where there has been liberalization of international trade and investment flows. However, since 1990 regional incomes have begun to diverge. Such a divergence is entirely explained by the variance between the coastal and interior provinces, rather than increase in variance within each other. Therefore, it seems that China is now on a dual track, with a prosperous and fast growing coastal region and a poor interior growing at a lower rate.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 5412.

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Date of creation: Jan 1996
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Publication status: published as China Economic Review, Vol. 7, no. 1 (1996).
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:5412
Note: EFG
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  1. Barro, R.J. & Sala-I-Martin, X., 1991. "Convergence Across States and Regions," Papers 629, Yale - Economic Growth Center.
  2. Paul M Romer, 1999. "Increasing Returns and Long-Run Growth," Levine's Working Paper Archive 2232, David K. Levine.
  3. Jeffrey Sachs & Andrew Warner, 1995. "Economic Reform and the Progress of Global Integration," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1733, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  4. Barro, Robert T. & Sala-I-Martin, Xavier, 1992. "Regional growth and migration: A Japan-United States comparison," Journal of the Japanese and International Economies, Elsevier, vol. 6(4), pages 312-346, December.
  5. Robert J. Barro, 2012. "Inflation and Economic Growth," CEMA Working Papers 568, China Economics and Management Academy, Central University of Finance and Economics.
  6. Ben-David, Dan, 1993. "Equalizing Exchange: Trade Liberalization and Income Convergence," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 108(3), pages 653-79, August.
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