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Did higher inequality impede growth in rural China ?

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  • Benjamin, Dwayne
  • Brandt, Loren
  • Giles, John

Abstract

This paper estimates the relationship between initial village inequality and subsequent household income growth for a large sample of households in rural China. Using a rich longitudinal survey spanning the years 1987-2002, and controlling for an array of household and village characteristics, the paper finds that households located in higher inequality villages experienced significantly lower income growth through the 1990s. However, local inequality’s predictive power and effects are significantly diminished by the end of the sample. The paper exploits several advantages of the household-level data to explore hypotheses that shed light on the channels by which inequality affects growth. Biases due to aggregation and heterogeneity of returns to own-resources, previously suggested as candidate explanations for the relationship, are both ruled out. Instead, the evidence points to unobserved village institutions at the time of economic reforms that were associated with household access to higher income activities as the source of the link between inequality and growth. The empirical analysis addresses a number of pertinent econometric issues including measurement error and attrition, but underscores others that are likely to be intractable for all investigations of the inequality-growth relationship.

Suggested Citation

  • Benjamin, Dwayne & Brandt, Loren & Giles, John, 2010. "Did higher inequality impede growth in rural China ?," Policy Research Working Paper Series 5483, The World Bank.
  • Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:5483
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. van der Weide, Roy & Milanovic, Branko, 2014. "Inequality is bad for growth of the poor (but not for that of the rich)," Policy Research Working Paper Series 6963, The World Bank.
    2. Zhang, Jian & Giles, John & Rozelle, Scott, 2012. "Does it pay to be a cadre? Estimating the returns to being a local official in rural China," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 40(3), pages 337-356.
    3. Li, Chao & Gibson, John, 2013. "Rising Regional Inequality in China: Fact or Artifact?," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 47(C), pages 16-29.
    4. Yang Song & Guangsu Zhou, 2017. "Inequality of opportunity and household education expenditures: Evidence from panel data in China," Working Papers 439, ECINEQ, Society for the Study of Economic Inequality.
    5. Flaviana Palmisano, 2015. "Evaluating patterns of income growth when status matters: a robust approach," Working Papers 375, ECINEQ, Society for the Study of Economic Inequality.
    6. Molero-Simarro, Ricardo, 2017. "Inequality in China revisited. The effect of functional distribution of income on urban top incomes, the urban-rural gap and the Gini index, 1978–2015," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 42(C), pages 101-117.
    7. Jin, Yanhong & Fan, Maoyong & Cheng, Mingwang & Shi, Qinghua, 2014. "The economic gains of cadre status in rural China: Investigating effects and mechanisms," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 31(C), pages 185-200.
    8. Sharon G. M. Goh & Grace H.Y. Lee & Eduard Bomhoff, 2016. "The Dynamics of Public Opinion towards Inequality in Malaysia," Monash Economics Working Papers 02-16, Monash University, Department of Economics.
    9. Li, Tingting & Lai, Jennifer T. & Wang, Yong & Zhao, Dingtao, 2016. "Long-run relationship between inequality and growth in post-reform China: New evidence from dynamic panel model," International Review of Economics & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 41(C), pages 238-252.
    10. Frijters, Paul & Liu, Amy Y.C. & Meng, Xin, 2012. "Are optimistic expectations keeping the Chinese happy?," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 81(1), pages 159-171.
    11. Narayan, Ambar & Saavedra-Chanduvi, Jaime & Tiwari, Sailesh, 2013. "Shared prosperity : links to growth, inequality and inequality of opportunity," Policy Research Working Paper Series 6649, The World Bank.
    12. Chan, Kenneth S. & Zhou, Xianbo & Pan, Zhewen, 2014. "The growth and inequality nexus: The case of China," International Review of Economics & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 34(C), pages 230-236.
    13. Jingyi Huang & Yumei Guo & Yang Song, 2016. "Intergenerational transmission of education in China: Pattern, mechanism, and policies," Working Papers 415, ECINEQ, Society for the Study of Economic Inequality.

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    Keywords

    Access to Finance; Inequality; Rural Poverty Reduction; Poverty Impact Evaluation; Services&Transfers to Poor;

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