COVID-19 and Regional Income Inequality in China

Jianfu Shen, Wai Yan Shum, Tsun Se Cheong, Lafang Wang

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


This study investigates the impact of COVID-19 and social distancing policies on regional income inequality. We base our study on a sample of 295 prefecture (and above) cities in 31 provinces in China. A distribution dynamics approach is employed to reveal the trend and movement of disposable income per capita in each city before the COVID-19 pandemic, during the COVID-19 pandemic, and in the period when the COVID-19 was under the control. The findings reveal significant negative economic consequences of the COVID-19 in the first quarter of 2020 and show that most cities will converge to a level of disposable income which is much less than the Pre-COVID level if the COVID pandemic persists. Regional income inequality has intensified in the cities that have a longer duration of stringent social distancing policies during the COVID-19 pandemic and disappeared in the cities with policies of short duration. Disposable income per capita for urban residents recovered quickly when the transmission of coronavirus was effectively contained; and yet the impact of the pandemic on rural residents remains unresolved, if not intensified. This study demonstrates a significant divergence of the trend of disposable income across cities with different durations of social distancing policies and between urban and rural residents. It also highlights the importance of stringent social distancing policies in containing the spread of virus in a short time and calls for special policy attention for rural regions in the recovery from the COVID-19.
Original languageEnglish
Article number687152
JournalFrontiers in Public Health
Publication statusPublished - 11 May 2021


  • China
  • distribution dynamics
  • regional income inequality
  • rural-urban disparity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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