“Inequality Persistence and Revolution: What can we learn from the Long March in China?” by Maëlys de La Rupelle
Maëlys de La Rupelle
University of Namur
How persistent are the institutions determining social mobility? We show that the distribution of land and human capital exhibit a surprisingly high level of intergenerational persistence. We investigate the impact of one of the most radical changes one can think of, Mao's revolution in rural China, on inequality persistence. To identify places which experienced different degrees of reform for exogenous reasons, we build on a unique historical event, the Long March of the Red Army in the mid 1930s, which was retreating to escape the Nationalists. We show that in the Long March counties, formerly poor families have now more land than others, and that the revolution disrupted the intergenerational transmission of human capital. Yet, overall, the persistence of inequality is remarkable. Most villages are not Long March villages and in those villages, the historical poverty of households is strongly negatively correlated with less land today. For most areas in rural China, the reform failed to completely disrupt the transmission of social inequalities at the country level.