Public Transfers and Inequality in China

October 08, 2020


On October 7, 2020, Wang Feng, Professor of Sociology at UC Irvine joined Columbia's Qin Gao, Professor of Social Policy and Social Work and director of the China Center for Social Policy for an event: "Public Transfers and Inequality in China."

With expanded fiscal capacity and rising concerns over economic inequality, the Chinese government in the last decade and a half has vastly rebuilt and expanded its social welfare regime. Using the National Transfer Accounts (NTA) methodology and both micro-level survey data and macro-level government statistics, this study examines the distribution of public transfers in education, health care and pension across generations and income groups in 2014 and compare it with those in 2010. While per capita public transfers in absolute terms remained in favor of higher-income groups and the elderly in 2014, as in 2010, the gap in receiving public transfers between the rich and the poor was reduced notably in this short time period. Public transfers also became more progressive in relative terms, with the bottom income group receiving much higher public transfers relative to their per capita household income than the wealthier groups. These results reveal that although the unequal distribution of public transfers continues and it in part results from the fragmented program design and the legacies of socialist inequalities, China’s expanded social welfare programs have contributed to narrowing the vast income inequality in this country.

Speaker: Wang Feng, Professor of Sociology, UC Irvine

As a leading expert on demography, aging, and inequality, Wang Feng is a Professor of Sociology at University of California, Irvine and Professor (invited) at Fudan University, Shanghai. He was a Nonresident Senior Fellow at Brookings-Tsinghua Center for Public Policy (2013-2016), Senior Fellow at The Brookings Institution (2010-2013), Professor at Tsinghua University (2011-2013) and Invited Visiting Professor at Keio University, Japan. Dr. Wang’s research focuses on social inequality in post-socialist societies, global demographic change and consequences and migration and social reintegration in China. Dr. Wang is the author of multiple award-winning books and is a contributor to leading global media outlets. Dr. Wang’s work has been supported by various funding sources such as Pacific Rim Research Program, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Ford Foundation and American Council of Learned Societies.

Moderated by: Qin Gao, Professor of Social Policy and Social Work; Director, China Center for Social Policy

Co-sponsored by the Weatherhead East Asian Institute, the School of Social Work & China Center for Social Policy at Columbia University.