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Arrival of Young Talent: The Send-Down Movement and Rural Education in China


  • Yi Chen
  • Ziying Fan
  • Xiaomin Gu
  • Li-An Zhou


This paper estimates the effects on rural education of the send-down movement during the Cultural Revolution, when about 16 million urban youth were mandated to resettle in the countryside. Using a county-level dataset compiled from local gazetteers and population censuses, we show that greater exposure to the sent-down youths significantly increased rural children's educational achievement. This positive effect diminished after the urban youth left the countryside in the late 1970s but never disappeared. Rural children who interacted with the sent-down youths were also more likely to pursue more-skilled occupations, marry later, and have smaller families than those who did not.

Suggested Citation

  • Yi Chen & Ziying Fan & Xiaomin Gu & Li-An Zhou, 2020. "Arrival of Young Talent: The Send-Down Movement and Rural Education in China," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 110(11), pages 3393-3430, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:110:y:2020:i:11:p:3393-3430
    DOI: 10.1257/aer.20191414

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I21 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Analysis of Education
    • J13 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • N35 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Asia including Middle East
    • O15 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration
    • P36 - Economic Systems - - Socialist Institutions and Their Transitions - - - Consumer Economics; Health; Education and Training; Welfare, Income, Wealth, and Poverty
    • R23 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - Household Analysis - - - Regional Migration; Regional Labor Markets; Population


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