Home : Resources : Contact Info

The Urban-Rural Divide

The increasing gap between the developing and the undeveloped creates a disconnect between the people of China

What is Poverty?
The Urban- Rural Divide
What does poverty look like?
Interconnected Problems
China's Solutions

The Gini Index is an economic calculation which shows income inequality, where zero represents perfect income equality, and one represents perfect inequality. For more information, there is an article on the Gini Coefficient on Wikipedia.

China's Gini Coefficient is "estimated to exceed .40, a level that could endanger economic and social stability".


China's economy is no small matter. As the world becomes increasingly globalized, China's economic position become increasing interconnected with every region, all across the world. However, the gap between the rich and the poor is widening, and it is doing so across rural-urban boundaries. This means that although the cities are developing and becoming more modernized, people living in rural areas are not being affected by this change, and subsequently, do not benefit from China's growing economy. It is estimated that the average income in the cities is $1000/yr, average income in rural areas is $300/year.



This gap between the rich and the poor, the urban and the rural, has led to a massive immigration from rural areas to cities. It is not uncommon for men to leave their households to find work in the cities, while their wives tend crops and take care of the children. This puts and extreme amount of pressure on families who are divided by economic forces. The International Migration Organization (IOM) has estimated that over 100 million internal migrants have moved to the cities temporarily to support their families.



Due to the geography of China, the western part of the country is much more agricultural and rural, and the eastern part is much more technology and business driven. The urban-rural divide separates these China physically, into two regions.


Not only are income levels much lower in the rural areas, but these areas often have inferior technology. "Agricultural science and technology have advanced to fairly high levels in China, with some projects ranking among the best in the world and others at the cutting edge of global agrotechnology...But only 30% of the fruits of agricultural research are translated into practical use, compared with 70-80% in developed countries...The main reasons for the slow take up rate are insufficient funds and staffing to disseminate improvements and the poor quality of the workforce...The high illiteracy among China's rural population- approximately 35% (30 percentage points higher than the USA and Japan) is another major obstacle to developing a rural commodity economy." (Fang 1993: 282-283)



incidence of rural poverty

This map shows the incidence of rural poverty by region. The darker the shade of red or gray, the higher the incidence. This map can be viewed in a larger form at the original site. As you can tell, the rural areas tend to be on the left side of the country.

Human Development Index

This map shows the Human Development Index by region. The darker the shade of green, the greater developed the area is. It is calculated by "life expectancy", "literacy"and "Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita at purchasing power parity (PPP)". Click here for more information on the Human Development Index.


Life Expectancy by Province

This bar graph shows the difference in life expectancy between rural and urban area by province. The gray bars represent urban areas, and the blue bars represent rural areas. As you can see, life expectancy in rural areas is significantly lower than urban areas. This information was taken from the China Human Development Report (a larger view can be found in this document). More information on the CHDR can be found at the UNDP China.