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I hear Mr. Xi Jinping in his address to villagers spoke 老少边穷地区 in the fourth tone (i.e., 少 as 绍), but I think he might have made a mistake here, out of instincts, without any real understanding.

  • Not a mistake, No one say 老少(shao3)边穷, since 少 is preceded by a third tone, it is easy to say shao4 – Jacob Oct 7 '17 at 13:19
  • It is definitely a mistake if pronounced as shao4. – fefe Oct 8 '17 at 1:20
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Here’s 现代汉语规范词典’s entry:

老少边穷

PY lǎo-shǎo-biān-qióng

老解放区、少数民族地区、边疆地区和穷困地区的合称。

注意 “少”这里不读shào, 不当“年少”讲。

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It should be pronounced as the 3rd tone, i.e. shǎo. Because in 老少边穷地区 refers to 少数民族自治地区.

老少边穷地区:主要指革命老区、少数民族自治地区、陆地边境地区和欠发达地区。

BTW: 老少 (pronounced as lǎo shào) is another word which means the old and the young. So pronouncing 老少边穷 as lǎo shào biān qióng would be quite confusing.

Reference: “老少边穷”的“少”怎么读?

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