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We seek to contribute to a better understanding of education development in China and to strengthen education relationship between the United States and China.


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Education and Poverty Reduction in China

|Intro| |Trends in Poverty in Rural China| |Project on Financing of Compulsory Education in Rural China| |Project on Financial Assistance to Primary-School Children in Yunnan| |College Scholarship for Female Minority Students from Rural China| |Other Related Sources|

Trends in Poverty in Rural China

It is widely recognized that China has made substantial progress in economic development since the implementation in 1978 of the twin policies of reform and opening up to the outside world.  In the two decades since 1978, national output has increased by five folds and average per-capita income quadrupled.  Accompanying the rapid growth of the national economy was an astounding achievement in the reduction in absolute poverty in rural China.  Based on the government's standard of absolute poverty ($.6 per person per day, in constant 1985 purchasing power parity dollars), the incidence of absolute poverty in rural China declined from 260 million in 1978 to 42 million in 1998.  But the size of the poor population remains large.  In fact, according to the international standard of absolute poverty ($1.0 per person per day), there were still 106 million poor people in rural China at the end of 1998.

Rapid growth of the national economy was accompanied by highly uneven economic development across different regions of the country, with the western region lagging far behind the eastern and central regions.  Income inequality has widened over time.  For example, the GINI coefficient (with a possible range between 0 for perfect equality, and 1 for perfect inequality) increased from .29 in 1981 to .42 in 1995.  Thus, it is not surprising to find that most of the poor in China today are concentrated in the rural areas of western provinces, particularly within remote and mountainous townships. 

In 1994, the Chinese government launched a poverty-reduction initiative under the "8-7 Plan" with the major objective of raising per-capita income to 500 yuan (in 1990 prices) within seven years.  This plan targets 592 designated poverty counties in the country.  Poverty reduction, especially in China's west, remains a formidable challenge today.

Selected studies on poverty in China

  • World Bank (2001).  Overcoming rural poverty .  Washington, DC: Country Study Report Number 22137, the World Bank.
  • Chen, S. & Wang, Y.  (2001). China's growth and poverty reduction- trends between 1990 and 1999.  Washington, DC: Policy Research Working Paper Number WPS2651, the World Bank.

Nationally-designated Poor Counties in China

Map of Nationally-designated Poor Counties in China