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The Han-Minority Achievement Gap, Language, and Returns to Schools in Rural China

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  • Yunfan Yang
  • Huan Wang
  • Linxiu Zhang
  • Sean Sylvia
  • Renfu Luo
  • Yaojiang Shi
  • Wei Wang
  • Scott Rozelle

Abstract

Although access to quality education in rural China has expanded dramatically over the past 3 decades, significant disparities persist between ethnic minorities and the Han majority. This article compares the academic achievement and determinants of achievement of minority and Han students in rural western China. In a survey of nearly 21,000 primary school students, we find that minority students score significantly lower than their Han peers on standardized exams in math and Chinese. This Han-minority achievement gap is largest for minority students whose primary language is not standard Mandarin (putonghua): these students score on average more than 0.6 standard deviations lower than Han students in both subjects. For minority students whose primary language is standard Mandarin, the gap with Han students is almost fully explained by different endowments of student, class peer, teacher, and school characteristics. Endowments of these characteristics, however, explain little of the achievement gap for non-Mandarin minority students. A fixed effects analysis also shows that the returns to Han students of attending individual schools tend to be larger than those to minority students with similar characteristics. Further, these school-specific differential returns to Han and minority students are most strongly associated with the characteristics of teachers.

Suggested Citation

  • Yunfan Yang & Huan Wang & Linxiu Zhang & Sean Sylvia & Renfu Luo & Yaojiang Shi & Wei Wang & Scott Rozelle, 2015. "The Han-Minority Achievement Gap, Language, and Returns to Schools in Rural China," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 63(2), pages 319-359.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucp:ecdecc:doi:10.1086/679070
    DOI: 10.1086/679070
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Ariel Fiszbein & Norbert Schady & Francisco H.G. Ferreira & Margaret Grosh & Niall Keleher & Pedro Olinto & Emmanuel Skoufias, 2009. "Conditional Cash Transfers : Reducing Present and Future Poverty," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 2597, 09-2019.
    2. Emily Hannum, 2002. "Educational stratification by ethnicity in China: Enrollment and attainment in the early reform years," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 39(1), pages 95-117, February.
    3. Chuang, Hwei-Lin, 1997. "High school youths' dropout and re-enrollment behavior," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 16(2), pages 171-186, April.
    4. van de Walle, Dominique & Gunewardena, Dileni, 2001. "Sources of ethnic inequality in Viet Nam," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 65(1), pages 177-207, June.
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    Cited by:

    1. Fang Lai & Linxiu Zhang & Qinghe Qu & Xiao Hu & Yaojiang Shi & Matthew Boswell & Scott Rozelle, 2015. "Teaching the Language of Wider Communication, Minority Students, and Overall Educational Performance: Evidence from a Randomized Experiment in Qinghai Province, China," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 63(4), pages 753-776.
    2. Yishen Liu & Yao Pan, 2016. "Less restrictive birth control, less education? Evidence from ethnic minorities in China," WIDER Working Paper Series 077, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).

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