China’s Great Famine: Estimating the Short- and Long-Term Effects of Mao Zedong’s Four-Five-Eight Policy
56 Pages Posted: 27 Nov 2017 Last revised: 12 Nov 2018
Date Written: Novermber 11, 2018
This paper studies a neglected institutional cause of China’s Great Famine: the “four-five-eight” policy. Mao Zedong wishfully proposed unrealistic grain yield targets for counties in China according to their geographic locations, which local governments strictly implemented in 1958. Using novel county-level data, we apply a spatial regression discontinuity design and find compelling evidence that the unrealistic yield targets led to excessive death tolls during 1958-61. We also find that China’s Great Famine caused serious deterioration in human capital accumulation for decades afterwards.
Keywords: China’s Great Famine, Four-Five-Eight Policy, Grain Yield Target, Spatial Regression Discontinuity Design
JEL Classification: N45, O53, P26, Q18
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation