Urban Poverty in China
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Urban Poverty in China

Fulong Wu, Chris Webster, Shenijing He and Yuting Liu

Urban poverty is an emerging problem. This book explores the household and neighbourhood factors that lead to both the generation and continuance of urban poverty in China. It is argued that the urban Chinese are not a homogenous social group, but combine laid-off workers and rural migrants, resulting in stark contrasts between migrant and workers’ neighbourhoods and villages.
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Chapter 5: Poverty Dynamics: Property Rights Perspective

Fulong Wu, Chris Webster, Shenijing He and Yuting Liu


After previous investigation of impoverished neighbourhoods, this chapter further examines the dynamics of urban poverty generation in China from the perspective of property rights. We explain the dynamics through changing property rights and entitlement failures, the insight of which is derived from new institutional economics. Urban poverty is generated through changing institutional arrangements in critical consumption areas (housing, education and health care) and the loss of rights to urban space during land appropriation. We treat property rights as the basis of entitlements and draw seminal insights from the Nobel Prize Laureate Amartya Sen (1981) on food entitlement failure to describe urban poverty as a series of entitlement failures to secure vital input to sustain urban living. We examine the impacts of service commodification on the urban poor and deprivation of land entitlement for landless farmers. The first section of the chapter provides a brief review of theoretical property rights perspectives. Then we examine entitlement failure in the critical consumption areas of education, housing and health care and the deprivation of land and land-related entitlements. In the two sections following, we firstly examine the property rights issues facing the urban poor in China, and secondly discuss the plight of impoverished landless farmers using case studies of two villages. ENTITLEMENT FAILURE: PROPERTY RIGHTS PERSPECTIVE TO URBAN POVERTY The entitlement approach to economics in general and poverty studies in particular was developed by Sen (1981). The basic idea is that people’s ability to command food rather than the availability of food per se,...

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