The Institutional Causes of China's Great Famine, 1959-61

76 Pages Posted: 5 Sep 2010

See all articles by Xin Meng

Xin Meng

Australian National University; IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Nancy Qian

Yale University - Department of Economics

Pierre Yared

Columbia Business School - Finance and Economics

Multiple version iconThere are 3 versions of this paper

Date Written: September 3, 2010

Abstract

This paper investigates the institutional causes of China's Great Famine. It presents two empirical findings: 1) in 1959, when the famine began, food production was almost three times more than population subsistence needs; and 2) regions with higher per capita food production that year suffered higher famine mortality rates, a surprising reversal of a typically negative correlation. A simple model based on historical institutional details shows that these patterns are consistent with government policy failure in a centrally planned economy in which the government is unable to easily collect and respond to new information in the presence of an aggregate shock to production.

Keywords: Central Planning, Institutions, Food Procurement, Prices vs. Quantities, Development, Modern Chinese History

JEL Classification: O43, P2, N45

Suggested Citation

Meng, Xin and Qian, Nancy and Yared, Pierre, The Institutional Causes of China's Great Famine, 1959-61 (September 3, 2010). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1671744 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1671744

Xin Meng

Australian National University ( email )

Research School of Economics
College of Business and Economics
Canberra ACT 0200
Australia
+61 26249 3102 (Phone)

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Schaumburg-Lippe-Str. 7 / 9
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Nancy Qian

Yale University - Department of Economics ( email )

28 Hillhouse Ave
New Haven, CT 06520-8268
United States

Pierre Yared (Contact Author)

Columbia Business School - Finance and Economics ( email )

3022 Broadway
Uris Hall
New York, NY 10027
United States

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