Hayek (1945) predicts that where local information is important, the organization of production should be decentralized. This prediction is tested and supported in the context of the decentralization of Chinese state-owned enterprises (SOEs). SOEs are more likely to decentralize with increasing distance from the seat of the oversight government. This likelihood is especially strong when performance heterogeneity is greater and/or transportation costs are higher.
Widening income inequality in China has prompted President Xi Jinping to shift focus and to emphasize the fostering of balanced, high-quality development. But how exactly did income inequality evolve over China’s growth process and what was its impact on consumption and welfare? Using a long panel of income and consumption data from thousands of rural and urban households, we document that the increasing income inequality in China mainly reflects increasing permanent income risk, against which it became harder and harder to insure consumption, over the period of rapid income growth from 1989 to 2009. In other words, as household income grew, so did income fluctuations. These income fluctuations had an increasingly direct impact on consumption. For rural households, the welfare cost from increasing income risk and increasing exposure of consumption to income risk can almost cancel out the welfare gain from accelerated income growth over those twenty years.