High Corruption Income in Ming and Qing China
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We develop an economic model that explains historical data on government corruption in Ming and Qing China. In our model, officials' extensive powers result in corrupt income matching land's share in output. We estimate corrupt income to be between 14 to 22 times official income resulting in about 22% of agricultural output accruing to 0.4% of the population. The results suggest that eliminating corruption through salary reform was possible in early Ming but impossible by mid-Qing rule. Land reform may also be ineffective because officials could extract the same rents regardless of ownership. High officials' incomes and the resulting inequality may have also created distortions and barriers to change that could have contributed to China's stagnation over the five centuries 1400-1900s.
Department of Economics, 2005