Building bridges in economics research: John Whalley (Canada)
Canadian and Chinese economists join forces against poverty
|China’s economic boom has been
accompanied by rising inequality. IDRC
supports young scholars and senior
economists who bring fresh thinking
to the problem of poverty.
The achievements are heartening, as a remarkable group of senior Chinese and international economists mentors a new generation of scholars undertaking applied research on poverty and inequality in China: 19 young Chinese economists, assisted by almost as many respected senior scholars, are breaking new ground as they explore applied research on poverty and inequality in China.
The young scholars’ work has helped deepen understanding of the dynamics of poverty and inequality, and their data work has helped show that inequality is now beginning to plateau in China. For example, one study found that earning differentials between migrant workers and local workers had decreased between 2001 and 2005, and that discrimination against migrant workers had eased slightly. Another study showed that poor rural people would benefit more if their outpatient care was subsidized than from having hospital care reimbursed.
I’ve been impressed by their enthusiasm, their commitment, and their willingness to work hard to learn.
In fact, working with them has, I think, affected my own research in a number of critical ways. I now tend to see China as an increasingly market-oriented economy, but one to which you can’t mechanically apply the same kind of analyses that you would typically produce for developed economies.
Working with the young scholars has brought home to me that you have to nuance the work that you do as it’s applied not just to China, but to all developing countries.
IDRC’s financial support has been very welcome, but IDRC offers more than that. It’s also the intellectual support. The program officers we’ve worked with have made many contributions and suggestions. It’s also very appealing to us that IDRC-supported research projects are to a large degree initiated in the developing world to meet the needs they identify as priorities.