Estimates of the distribution of wealth in the rural areas of developing countries are virtually unknown. In some countries there are of course data on the distribution of land, but even where such data exist, they are woefully inadequate. First, land is measured in physical units. Adjustments seldom are made to take differences in the quality of land into account, although rough corrections occasionally are made to distinguish between irrigated and unirrigated land. Almost never is land measured in value terms and hence all factors apart from irrigation which affect the economic value of land are ignored. Second, where data exist, they often refer to the distribution of operational holdings rather than to units of ownership. In countries where large farms are broken up into small tenant holdings, data on the distribution of operational holdings tend to understate the degree of inequality in land ownership. This problem is compounded in countries where large landowners own more than one farm, often in different localities. Third, the data on the distribution of land usually focus on the distribution among tenant cultivators or, alternatively, among landowners. In both cases landless agricultural wage workers are excluded from consideration. What is needed however are data which refer to the distribution of land (correctly valued) among the entire rural population, including those who possess no land at all as well as small and large landowners.
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- The Distribution of Wealth in Rural China
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