December 2010

IZA DP No. 5383: Why Are Household Incomes More Unequally Distributed in China than in Russia?

published in: Cambridge Journal of Economics, 2011, 35 (5), 897-920

Harmonised microdata show a Gini coefficient for per capita total income of 45.3 percent in China 2002 and 33.6 percent in Russia 2003. A much larger urban to rural income gap in combination with a much smaller proportion of people living in urban areas in China are important reasons for this cross-country difference in inequality. Wage is a more non-equalising income source in China than in Russia. While Russian public transfers reduce income inequality, Chinese public transfers increase income inequality. Cross-country differences in the process of transition are also found to be significant. A relatively large non-agriculture self-employment sector is non-equalising in rural China, but is also narrowing the urban to rural income gap. In contrast to the many cross-country differences revealed, we report income inequality among urban residents in China and in urban Russia to be very similar.