The Chinese Great Famine Revisited: Using Panel Data Approach for Program Evaluation


The cause of the Chinese Great Famine (1959-1961), the worst famine in recorded history, was highly debated in both political and academic societies. In this paper, we use the Cross-Sectional Dependence characteristic of the panel data to construct the counterfactual productivity during the Great Leap Forward, trying to evaluate the aggregated effect of radical policies on the agricultural output. We found out that the radical political movement had a substantial negative impact on the crop production. Based on the assumption that the incentives of applying progressive policies, no matter influenced the agricultural production or not, is non-discriminatory, we calculated the Political Impact Ratio(PII) as the proxy of local cadres incentive, with which we could well explain the variation in mortality across the provinces and the time.

Working Paper.