Do government transfers reduce poverty in China? Micro evidence from five regions

This paper estimates urban and rural poverty rates across five Chinese administrative regions (Shanghai, Liaoning, Guangdong, Henan and Gansu) in 2014 using representative household level data from the China Family Panel Studies survey. The types of government transfer payments that households in poverty received and the ability for such payments to lift households from poverty are also assessed. Consistent with official estimates, the results highlight substantial disparities in poverty rates between administrative regions. Smaller differences exist between urban and rural locations within the same administrative region. In 2014, the most common types of government transfer received by households in poverty were agricultural subsidies or social assistance - principally the dibao. Regarding the latter, the results suggest some improvement in payment targeting in rural areas, but most dibao recipients had income above the poverty line (as defined in this paper) in 2014. Furthermore, across all administrative regions, the vast majority of households living below the defined poverty line did not receive social assistance at that time.