(2006) 38.4, 377–389
ISSN 0004-0894 © The Author.
Journal compilation © Royal Geographical Society (with The Institute of British Geographers) 2006
Blackwell Publishing, Ltd.
Changing regional rural inequality in
Institute of Geographical Sciences and Natural Resources Research, CAS, Beijing 100101, China
Revised manuscript received 31 January 2006
Regional rural inequalities in China since the reform are examined based on Theil’s
regional inequality index. By using data from the three zones (east, central and west) and
provinces in the period 1980–2002, I find that China’s rural regional inequality has an
overall increasing trend with a short period of decrease during the entire reform period.
However, the trends vary in different indicators and different geographical scales. The
trend of income inequality does not always match that of rural economic inequality. The
decomposition of Theil’s regional inequality further reveals that, since 1987, interregional
inequalities between the eastern, central and western regions have been more serious
than provincial inequality within the regions themselves. For example, when rural non-
agriculture inequality decreased substantially within the east, it increased greatly within
the west. Similarly, the income inequality increased within the west and the east but
decreased within the central region. China’s regional rural inequality remained at a high
level and the coastal/interior income differential continued to increase.
rural inequality, regions, changing patterns, Theil index, China
Since the economic reform in 1978, China has been
one of the fastest growing economies in the world.
However, this growth has not shared equality across
China, and regional inequality has become an
important topic of academic inquiry and government
policy. In particular, changes in regional inequality
at the macro as well as micro levels over time are of
great concern to policy makers.