IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/p/tor/tecipa/benjamin-04-01.html
   My bibliography  Save this paper

The Evolution of Income Inequality in Rural China

Author

Listed:
  • Dwayne Benjamin
  • Loren Brandt
  • John Giles

Abstract

We document the evolution of the income distribution in rural China, from 1987 through 1999, with an emphasis on investigating increases in inequality associated with transition and economic development. With a backdrop of perceived improvements in average living standards, we ask whether increases of inequality may have offset, or even threaten welfare gains associated with economic reforms. The centerpiece of the paper is an empirical analysis based on a set of household surveys conducted by the China s Research Center for Rural Economy (RCRE) in Beijing. These surveys permit us to construct a set of comparable estimates of household income and consumption from a panel of over 100 villages from nine Chinese provinces. We provide a variety of summary statistics, including Gini coefficients, as well as more nonparametric summaries of the income distribution (i.e., Lorenz curves). In addition, we decompose the sources of inequality, exploring the contributions of spatial inequality to overall inequality, and the role of non-agricultural incomes in explaining rising dispersion of incomes. We find that the distribution of income improved by most measures during the early part of the period, as average incomes rose substantially with only a modest increase in inequality. However, the distribution has worsened significantly since 1995, with rising inequality, and falling absolute incomes, especially at the bottom end of the income distribution. We attribute most of the recent decline in welfare to collapsing agricultural incomes, pr obably brought about by lower farm prices. At the same time, increasing non-farm incomes have widened the gaps between those with and without access to nonagricultural opportunities. Based on explorations with different data sets, our RCRE-based results probably understate the divergence due to non-agricultural income growth and the increase in inequality over time. Our results highlight the need for further evaluation of the role of farming as a source of income in the countryside, and also underline the limitations of a land-based (and essentially grain-based) income support and redistribution mechanisms.

Suggested Citation

  • Dwayne Benjamin & Loren Brandt & John Giles, 2003. "The Evolution of Income Inequality in Rural China," Working Papers benjamin-04-01, University of Toronto, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:tor:tecipa:benjamin-04-01
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: https://www.economics.utoronto.ca/public/workingPapers/UT-ECIPA-BENJAMIN-04-01.pdf
    File Function: Main Text
    Download Restriction: no

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. 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.
    2. Angus Deaton, 2005. "Measuring Poverty in a Growing World (or Measuring Growth in a Poor World)," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 87(1), pages 1-19, February.
    3. Dwayne Benjamin & Loren Brandt, 2002. "Property rights, labour markets, and efficiency in a transition economy: the case of rural China," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 35(4), pages 689-716, November.
    4. Deininger, Klaus & Squire, Lyn, 1996. "A New Data Set Measuring Income Inequality," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 10(3), pages 565-591, September.
    5. Gustafsson, Bjorn & Shi, Li, 2002. "Income inequality within and across counties in rural China 1988 and 1995," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 69(1), pages 179-204, October.
    6. Ravallion, Martin & Chen, Shaohua, 1999. " When Economic Reform Is Faster Than Statistical Reform: Measuring and Explaining Income Inequality in Rural China," Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, vol. 61(1), pages 33-56, February.
    7. Benjamin, Dwayne & Brandt, Loren, 1997. "Land, Factor Markets, and Inequality in Rural China: Historical Evidence," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 34(4), pages 460-494, October.
    8. Jonathan Morduch & Terry Sicular, 2002. "Rethinking Inequality Decomposition, With Evidence from Rural China," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 112(476), pages 93-106, January.
    9. Haddad, Lawrence & Kanbur, Ravi, 1990. "How Serious Is the Neglect of Intra-Household Inequality?," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 100(402), pages 866-881, September.
    10. Cai, Fang & Wang, Dewen & Du, Yang, 2002. "Regional disparity and economic growth in China: The impact of labor market distortions," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 13(2-3), pages 197-212.
    11. Cecilia Garcia-Penalosa & Eve Caroli & Philippe Aghion, 1999. "Inequality and Economic Growth: The Perspective of the New Growth Theories," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 37(4), pages 1615-1660, December.
    12. Jeff Dayton-Johnson & Pranab Bardhan, 2002. "Inequality And Conservation On The Local Commons: A Theoretical Exercise," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 112(481), pages 577-602, July.
    13. Kai-yuen, Tsui, 1998. "Trends and Inequalities of Rural Welfare in China: Evidence from Rural Households in Guangdong and Sichuan," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 26(4), pages 783-804, December.
    14. Chen, Shaohua & Ravallion, Martin, 1996. "Data in transition: Assessing rural living standards in Southern China," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 7(1), pages 23-56.
    15. Rawski, Thomas G., 2001. "What is happening to China's GDP statistics?," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 12(4), pages 347-354.
    16. Shorrocks, A F, 1982. "Inequality Decomposition by Factor Components," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 50(1), pages 193-211, January.
    17. Anthony F. Shorrocks, 1983. "The Impact of Income Components on the Distribution of Family Incomes," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 98(2), pages 311-326.
    18. Rozelle Scott, 1994. "Rural Industrialization and Increasing Inequality: Emerging Patterns in China's Reforming Economy," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(3), pages 362-391, December.
    19. repec:dau:papers:123456789/10091 is not listed on IDEAS
    20. Banerjee, Abhijit V & Duflo, Esther, 2003. "Inequality and Growth: What Can the Data Say?," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 8(3), pages 267-299, September.
    21. Ravallion, Martin & Chen, Shaohua, 2007. "China's (uneven) progress against poverty," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 82(1), pages 1-42, January.
    22. Kanbur, Ravi & Zhang, Xiaobo, 1999. "Which Regional Inequality? The Evolution of Rural-Urban and Inland-Coastal Inequality in China from 1983 to 1995," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 27(4), pages 686-701, December.
    23. Hare, Denise, 1994. "Rural nonagricultural activities and their impact on the distribution of income: Evidence from farm households in Southern China," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 5(1), pages 59-82.
    24. Ravallion, Martin & Shaohua Chen, 1998. "When economic reform is faster than statistical reform - measuring and explaining inequality in rural China," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1902, The World Bank.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Rural inequality; China; welfare and transition; poverty; farm incomes.;

    JEL classification:

    • P36 - Economic Systems - - Socialist Institutions and Their Transitions - - - Consumer Economics; Health; Education and Training; Welfare, Income, Wealth, and Poverty
    • D3 - Microeconomics - - Distribution
    • O15 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:tor:tecipa:benjamin-04-01. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (RePEc Maintainer). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.