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Social Policy and Income Inequality during the Hu–Wen Era: A Progressive Legacy?

  • Qin Gao (a1), Sui Yang (a2) and Fuhua Zhai (a3)
Abstract

The Hu–Wen era saw significant expansions in social policies in China. How did these policy changes affect income inequality, and did they leave a progressive legacy? Using the China Household income Project (CHIP) 2002, 2007 and 2013 data, this article offers empirical evidence to answer these questions. We find that these social policy changes indeed led to some convergence of the divided urban–rural–migrant social welfare systems and helped curtail the growing income inequality driven by market forces. Measured as the share in household final income, the size of urban social benefits decreased, while those for rural residents and rural-to-urban migrants increased from 2002 to 2013. Social benefits – especially pensions – reduced income inequality in all three groups, although to a much smaller extent for rural residents and migrants as compared to their urban peers. Rural residents also gained from agricultural and livelihood subsidies through the “Building a new socialist countryside” initiative.

中国的社会政策在胡温时代有了显著的扩张。这些政策变化对收入不平等有何影响? 它们是累进式的吗? 本文使用中国家庭收入调查 (CHIP) 2002、2007 和 2013 年的数据来回答这些问题。我们发现,胡温时代的社会政策变化确实导致了原来城—乡—流动人口三元分化的社会福利体系在一定程度上的趋同,也帮助缓减了在市场驱动下日益增长的收入不平等。以福利收入在家庭最终收入中所占的份额来衡量,城市社会福利的规模在此间下降了,而针对农村居民和流动人口的福利则增加了。社会福利——尤其是养老金——对这三个群体内部的收入不平等都有所降低,但降低的幅度在农村居民和流动人口内部还是远小于城市居民。农村居民通过建设社会主义新农村项目获得农业补贴和生活补贴而受益。

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Corresponding author
qin.gao@columbia.edu (corresponding author).
Footnotes
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This article is dedicated to the celebration of the 30th anniversary of the China Household Income Project led by Professors Zhao Renwei and Li Shi, and participated in by many scholars in China and around the world.

Footnotes
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