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Road construction, economic growth, and poverty alleviation in China

Yang Zhou, Chunyang Tong and Yongsheng Wang

Growth and Change, 2022, vol. 53, issue 3, 1306-1332

Abstract: Improving transportation infrastructure has been recognized as a necessary instrument for a region to achieve economic growth and poverty alleviation. A systematic assessment of the impact of China's transportation improvements on economic growth and poverty reduction is insufficient, especially in the context of China's targeted poverty alleviation policies. This study first constructed a theoretical framework of road construction promoting economic growth and poverty alleviation. Then, based on county panel data from 2014 to 2018, the spatial analysis technology was applied to investigate the spatio‐temporal patterns of China's road construction and rural poverty alleviation, and finally, a mediating effect model was used to quantitatively measure the impact of road construction on economic growth and poverty alleviation. Results indicate that China has made remarkable achievements in road construction and poverty reduction over the past five years. Road and railway mileage increased by 14 times and 0.66 times, respectively. Road construction in poor areas was dominated by low‐grade roads and railways. There was a mediating effect between road construction and poverty alleviation, and economic growth was the mediating variable between them. The poverty reduction effects of different road levels varied with poverty levels and across regions. But on both the national and regional scale, the poverty reduction effect of road construction was higher than that of railways. The effect of high‐grade road construction on poverty reduction in poor areas was more obvious than that of low‐grade roads. The poverty reduction effect of the primary road construction was 2–3.5 times that of the tertiary road. The poverty reduction effects of railway construction and road construction followed a gradually increasing gradient from east to west. These results indicate that transportation infrastructure construction is an important way to promote economic growth and poverty alleviation in poor areas. Our findings would provide a scientific basis for transportation infrastructure planning and investment decision‐making in less‐developed countries.

Date: 2022
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