chapter  3
Poverty, Health, and Schooling in Rural China
ByShengchao Yu, Emily Hannum
Pages 22

As is widely recognized, China’s transition to a market economy since the early 1980s has brought remarkable growth in per capita income and reductions in poverty. Despite these favorable developments, many of China’s youth who live in poor rural areas continue to experience problems associated with poverty; basic health concerns and barriers to education persist.1 Regarding health, for example, whereas child malnutrition declined in rural areas in the late 1980s and early 1990s, physical stunting remains common in some poor rural areas.2 Regarding education, although overall levels of access are rising, significant shortcomings exist in poor rural areas. For example, among the 201 million illiterate people in 1997, 90 percent lived in rural areas and 50 percent lived in eight western provinces with a population of only 10 percent of the country’s total.3 Discontinuation and dropout rates of students in rural areas have been high, and although basic-level enrollments continued to rise through the 1990s, official statistics suggest that the discontinuation rate of middle school students in rural areas has increased slightly.4