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

See all articles by Chang Liu

Chang Liu

Princeton University

Li-An Zhou

Peking University - Guanghua School of Management

Date Written: Novermber 11, 2018

Abstract

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

Liu, Chang and Zhou, Li-An, China’s Great Famine: Estimating the Short- and Long-Term Effects of Mao Zedong’s Four-Five-Eight Policy (Novermber 11, 2018). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3075015 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3075015

Chang Liu (Contact Author)

Princeton University ( email )

Princeton, NJ 08540
United States

Li-An Zhou

Peking University - Guanghua School of Management ( email )

Peking University
Beijing, Beijing 100871
China

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