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Markets, Human Capital, and Inequality: Evidence from Rural China

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  • Dwayne Benjamin
  • Loren Brandt
  • Paul Glewwe
  • Li Guo

Abstract

Market reforms are generally credited with the rapid growth enjoyed by China's rural sector. This growth has not been without some cost, however, as inequality has also increased. Estimates suggest that the Gini rose from less than 0.20 to over 0.40 during this period. In this paper we go behind these numbers to explore the nature and causes of this inequality. To begin, we find that a considerable share of rural inequality is driven by local differences in household incomes, as opposed to regional income differences, that have been the focus of the previous literature. We then examine inter-household income differentials at the village level, exploring the links between education, market development, non-agricultural employment, and household income. To address these questions, we draw on a recently collected data set from Northeast China, that was collected by two of the authors in collaboration with Chinese colleagues in Hebei and Liaoning provinces in 1995. For purposes of comparison, we also draw on the Chinese Health and Nutrition Survey. We find that indeed, increasing rates of return to education and unevenly developed non-agricultural business opportunities contribute to the high levels of inequality in the countryside. Of most interest, however, is the implication that simultaneous improvements in educational attainment and off-farm market-development would allow more households to share in the rapid growth in rural China.

Suggested Citation

  • Dwayne Benjamin & Loren Brandt & Paul Glewwe & Li Guo, 2000. "Markets, Human Capital, and Inequality: Evidence from Rural China," William Davidson Institute Working Papers Series 298, William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan.
  • Handle: RePEc:wdi:papers:2000-298
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Wang, Xiaobing, 2007. "Labor market behavior of Chinese rural households during transition," Studies on the Agricultural and Food Sector in Transition Economies, Leibniz Institute of Agricultural Development in Transition Economies (IAMO), volume 42, number 92321.
    2. Dwayne Benjamin & Loren Brandt, 2002. "Agriculture and Income Distribution in Rural Vietnam under Economic Reforms: A Tale of Two Regions," Working Papers benjamin-02-01, University of Toronto, Department of Economics.
    3. Sangui Wang & Dwayne Benjamin & Loren Brandt & John Giles & Yingxing Li & Yun Li, 2007. "Inequality and Poverty in China during Reform," Working Papers PMMA 2007-07, PEP-PMMA.
    4. Robert M. Fearn, 2004. "A Note on Rapid Economic Development," South-Eastern Europe Journal of Economics, Association of Economic Universities of South and Eastern Europe and the Black Sea Region, vol. 2(2), pages 7-17.
    5. Dwayne Benjamin & Loren Brandt & John Giles & Sangui Wang, 2005. "Income Inequality During China's Economic Transition," Working Papers tecipa-238, University of Toronto, Department of Economics.
    6. Donatella Saccone, 2013. "Income concentration in China: what role for education?," International Journal of Education Economics and Development, Inderscience Enterprises Ltd, vol. 4(2), pages 101-116.
    7. Lee, Soohyung & Malin, Benjamin A., 2013. "Education's role in China's structural transformation," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 101(C), pages 148-166.
    8. Yao Amber Li & John Whalley & Shunming Zhang & Xiliang Zhao, 2011. "The Higher Educational Transformation of China and Its Global Implications," The World Economy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 34(4), pages 516-545, April.
    9. 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.
    10. Huang, Qiuqiong & Dawe, David & Rozelle, Scott & Huang, Jikun & Wang, Jinxia, 2005. "Irrigation, poverty and inequality in rural China," Australian Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Australian Agricultural and Resource Economics Society, vol. 49(2), June.
    11. Glewwe, Paul & Gragnolatti, Michele & Zaman, Hassan, 2000. "Who gained from Vietnam's boom in the 1990s? An analysis of poverty and inequality trends," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2275, The World Bank.
    12. Chen, Xi & Zhang, Xiaobo, 2009. "The Distribution of Income and Well-Being in Rural China: A Survey of Panel Data Sets, Studies and New Directions," MPRA Paper 20587, University Library of Munich, Germany.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • O15 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration
    • D3 - Microeconomics - - Distribution
    • P00 - Economic Systems - - General - - - General

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