Economic growth, income inequality and life expectancy in China

Weixiang Luo, Yu Xie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


China had made dramatic health gains before its economic reform that began in 1978 produced rapid economic growth in the ensuing years. Since the economic reform, China's income inequality has substantially increased, and health gains have stagnated. This article investigates the extent to which China's health stagnation may be attributable to the rise in income inequality in China. By simulating the improvement in life expectancy that could have resulted if, ceteris paribus, income inequality had stayed constant at the lowest level after the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, we find that the sharply increasing income inequality in China has contributed to life loss in China's population, about 0.6 years for men and 0.4 years for women. These findings suggest that redistribution of income from rich to poor may be one of the most important policy levers for improving population health in China.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number113046
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
StatePublished - Jul 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health(social science)
  • History and Philosophy of Science


  • China
  • Income inequality
  • Mortality


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