Despite high economic growth over the past 30 years, China’s substantial and persistent regional disparities have been the subject of continuing concern to policy makers, as well as the target of a wide variety of policies. An important issue in the policy debate about whether and how best to attack these disparities is whether measures designed to improve regional equality come at a cost to national development, i.e. whether there is a trade-off between the level of national output and the equality of its distribution across the regions. There is little analysis of this issue in the literature. We help fill this gap by setting up a two-region model designed to capture some of the salient features of the Chinese economy. We subject this model to a number of policy shocks and assess the effects on regional disparities in per capita output, on the one hand, and on aggregate output on the other to investigate the trade-off. We also consider income and welfare as alternatives to output. We find that disparities in per capita output, income and welfare often move in different directions so that it is important to specify which disparity is being targeted. Moreover, since both disparities and aggregate outcomes are endogenous, how they move together depends on the nature of the shock driving the model. Thus, some policies designed to reduce disparities face a trade-off and others do not. Only a reduction in internal migration restrictions unambiguously reduces all three disparity measures and increases aggregate output, income and welfare. All other policies considered face a trade-off in at least one dimension.
|Name||Economics Discussion Papers|