Inequality and Public Policy in China

Examines trends in inequality in the People’s Republic of China. It contains new findings on inequality nationwide, as well as within the rural and urban sectors, with an emphasis on public policy considerations. Several chapters focus on inequality of income; others analyze poverty, inequality in wealth, and the distribution of wages. Attention is given to groups such as migrants, women, and the elderly, as well as the relationship between income and health care funding and the impact of the rural tax reform. A distinguishing feature of this book is its database. All contributors to this volume make use of a large, nationwide survey of Chinese households, the product of long-term cooperation between Chinese and international researchers that is unique in its scope and duration. Using these data, the contributors examine changes in inequality over nearly fifteen years of the transitional era, from 1988 to 2002.

• New findings on a topic of significance to China and the rest of the world • Contributors are leading international and Chinese experts on the Chinese economy • Accessibly written, and of interdisciplinary and international interest


1. Inequality and public policy in China: issues and trends; 2. Income inequality and spatial differences in China, 1988, 1995, and 2002; 3. Growth and distribution of household income in China between 1995 and 2002; 4. Explaining incomes and inequality in China; 5. The distribution of wealth in China; 6. Growth, inequality, and poverty: a comparative study of China’s experience in the periods before and after the Asian crisis; 7. What has economic transition meant for the well-being of the elderly in China?; 8. Inequality in financing China’s health care; 9. China’s emerging wage structure, 1995–2002; 10. Unemployment, earlier retirement and changes in the gender income gap in urban China from 1995 to 2002; 11. What determines living arrangements of the elderly in urban China?; 12. The impact of village-specific factors on household income in rural China; 13. The redistributive impact of taxation in rural China, 1995–2002: an evaluation of rural taxation reform at the turn of the century; Appendix: the 1995 and 2002 household surveys: sampling methods and data description.


\'Although rapid widening income inequality in China is widely recognized as one of the country\'s foremost policy challenges, analysis of income distribution trends has been severely hampered by data weaknesses. This volume is a major step forward in providing policy-makers and analysts with the necessary reliable data on long-term trends in key indicators of income distribution from across China, including some particularly welcome new data from domestic migrants living in urban areas. That data provides the basis for a set of papers by an outstanding group of Chinese and foreign scholars, in which the linkages between recent trends and public policy - both the ways in which policy has influenced those trends, and the implications of these trends for current policy - are rigorously and imaginatively analyzed.\' Bill Bikales, UNDP, China

\'This volume has been eagerly awaited by the entire community of economists and sociologists researching China, since it reports on the third phase of the China Household Income Project, the most important, as well as the longest-running, household research program in China. This superb volume fully delivers on the promise, providing the clearest and most detailed view of the dramatic changes in income distribution occurring in China into the current millennium. The results directly challenge key aspects of the popular wisdom about growing inequality in China. Moreover, the volume goes well beyond simply describing patterns of change, and for the first time shows and analyzes the impact on Chinese households of specific government policies on health care, social security, wage policy and taxation. Essential reading.\' Barry Naughton, University of California, San Diego

\'Great books have three basic ingredients. They are based on high quality data, strong analysis and an understanding of the analyst of the issues. This edited volume, Inequality and Public Policy in China, is rare indeed because it has them all - in abundance. The editors, Gustafsson, Shi and Sicular, should be congratulated on producing a piece of scholarship that not only provides the reader with a realistic and balanced view of income inequality, but also on putting China’s case into perspective and beginning to explain the structural and policy bases for one the most important issues facing the nation’s development today.\' Scott Rozelle, Stanford University

\'China in the reform era has experienced not only extraordinary economic growth, but also dramatic increases in inequality. Rising income inequality and what to do about it has become a pressing concern for China\'s leaders. The present volume, which presents analyses by leading experts using the best available data on China\'s income distribution, represents a benchmark for judging these issues.\' Martin Whyte, Harvard University