Carl A. Riskin

Carl A. Riskin

Research Interest

Income distribution in China; poverty and poverty reduction policies in China; problems of economic reform

At Columbia, Professor Riskin teaches the economic organization and development of China.

The core of Professor Riskin’s research has dealt with the complex and changing impact of economic development on people’s lives — what the United Nations calls “human development.” He is the author of China ‘s Political Economy: The Quest for Development since 1949 (Oxford University Press, 1987); Inequality and Poverty in China in the Age of Globalization (with A. R. Khan, Oxford University Press, 2001); and China’s Retreat from Equality (with R. Zhao and S. Li, M. E. Sharpe, 2001), as well as of numerous scholarly articles. He has also done much work on China and other parts of the world for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), including production of the first two national Human Development Reports for China (Oxford University Press, 1997 and 1999).

Professor Riskin’s summary article, with A. R. Khan, on the results of a specially designed 2002 national survey of income distribution in China, appeared in The China Quarterly 182 (June 2005). More recently, his article “Inequality and Economic Crisis in China,” in Development, Equity and Poverty: Essays in Honour of Azizur Rahman Khan, examined the impact of the global downturn on China’s efforts to adopt a more equitable growth model.

Professor Riskin’s recent research has dealt with income distribution in China. He has explored reasons for an apparent decline in urban and rural income inequality between the mid-1990s and early 2000s. With Qin Gao he has studied the relative impact of government policies and market forces on changing income inequality and the reasons for variation in generosity and participation in China’s urban minimum livelihood guarantee program. He also produced an analysis for UNDP of the links between macroeconomic policies and poverty in China. This study showed that poverty there has responded mainly to macroeconomic trends and policies rather than to anti-poverty programs. The study aims to show how macro policies could be made more “pro-poor.”

Professor Riskin received his PhD in 1969 from the University of California – Berkeley. He began teaching at Columbia in 1967, as an instructor.



Carl Riskin and Azizur Rahman Khan, Inequality and Poverty in China in the Age of Globalization (Oxford University Press, 2001).

Carl Riskin, Zhao Renwei, and Li Shi, editors, China’s Retreat from Equality: Income Distribution and Economic Transition (Routledge, 2001).

Carl Riskin, China’s Political Economy: The Quest for Development Since 1949 (Oxford University Press, 1987).