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The Erroneous Use of China's Population and per capita Data:A Structured Review and Critical Test

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Abstract

Hundreds of studies in economics misinterpret China’s sub-national population and per capita data. The most widely used population counts are of hukou registrations from each province, prefecture, county, or city rather than of the people living in each place and generating local GDP. Over 220 million people have left their place of registration, while almost none had when reforms began, creating time-varying errors in estimates of per capita income of sub-national units. We survey empirical articles in blue ribbon journals, in development journals, and in regional and urban economics journals that use China’s sub-national data. Over 80 percent of articles use these data erroneously; most commonly the wrong population or employment counts are used to measure the size of sub-national units, and per capita data are calculated with the wrong denominator for the interpretation placed on variables. We provide examples of errors from each group of journals, and a critical test of one highly-cited study. Specifically, we show that if hukou registrations are erroneously used to measure the local population, following existing practice, conclusions about driving forces for urban area expansion are reversed. We give recommendations for more careful use of China’s sub-national population and per capita data.

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  • John Gibson & Chao Li, 2015. "The Erroneous Use of China's Population and per capita Data:A Structured Review and Critical Test," Working Papers in Economics 15/14, University of Waikato.
  • Handle: RePEc:wai:econwp:15/14
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    Blog mentions

    As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. Chinese data
      by Eric Crampton in Offsetting Behaviour on 2015-12-18 08:45:00
    2. Economic Growth and Particulate Pollution Concentrations in China
      by noreply@blogger.com (David Stern) in Stochastic Trend on 2016-02-25 12:00:00

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    Cited by:

    1. Kanbur, Ravi & Wang, Yue & Zhang, Xiaobo, 2021. "The great Chinese inequality turnaround," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 49(2), pages 467-482.
    2. Susan Olivia & Geua Boe‐Gibson & Glen Stitchbury & Lars Brabyn & John Gibson, 2018. "Urban land expansion in Indonesia 1992–2012: evidence from satellite‐detected luminosity," Australian Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Australian Agricultural and Resource Economics Society, vol. 62(3), pages 438-456, July.
    3. Yun Liang & John Gibson, 2017. "Do More Grandchildren Lead to Worse Health Status of Grandparents? Evidence from the China Health and Nutrition Survey," Working Papers in Economics 17/18, University of Waikato.
    4. John Gibson, 2019. "Are You Estimating the Right Thing? An Editor Reflects," Applied Economic Perspectives and Policy, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 41(3), pages 329-350.
    5. Chao Li & John Gibson, 2018. "Regional Inequality in China allowing for Spatial Cost-of-Living Differences: Evidence from a Hedonic Analysis of Apartment Prices," Working Papers in Economics 18/12, University of Waikato.
    6. John Gibson & Chao Li, 2018. "The “Belt and Road Initiative†and comparative regional productivity in China," Asia and the Pacific Policy Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 5(2), pages 168-181, May.
    7. David I. Stern & Donglan Zha, 2016. "Economic growth and particulate pollution concentrations in China," CCEP Working Papers 1603, Centre for Climate & Energy Policy, Crawford School of Public Policy, The Australian National University.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Hukou; China; measurement error; population; sub-national growth; urban area;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • O47 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - Empirical Studies of Economic Growth; Aggregate Productivity; Cross-Country Output Convergence
    • Q56 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Environment and Development; Environment and Trade; Sustainability; Environmental Accounts and Accounting; Environmental Equity; Population Growth
    • R11 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - General Regional Economics - - - Regional Economic Activity: Growth, Development, Environmental Issues, and Changes

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