IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Login to save this paper or follow this series

Economic Reform, Education Expansion, and Earnings Inequality for Urban Males in China, 1988-2007

  • Xin Meng
  • Kailing Shen
  • Sen Xue

In the past 20 years the average real earnings of Chinese urban male workers have increased by 350 per cent. Accompanying this unprecedented growth is a considerable increase in earnings inequality. Between 1988 and 2007 the variance of log earnings increased from 0.27 to 0.48, a 78 per cent increase. Using a unique set of repeated cross-sectional data this paper examines the causes of this increase in earnings inequality. We find that the major changes occurred in the 1990s when the labour market moved from a centrally planned system to a market oriented system. The decomposition exercise conducted in the paper identifies the factor that drives the significant increase in the earnings variance in the 1990s to be an increase in the within-education-experience cell residual variances. Such an increase may be explained mainly by the increase in the price of unobserved skills. When an economy shifts from an administratively determined wage system to a market-oriented one, rewards to both observed and unobserved skills increase. The turn of the century saw a slowing down of the reward to both the observed and unobserved skills, due largely to the college expansion program that occurred at the end of the 1990s.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
Download Restriction: no

Paper provided by Centre for Economic Policy Research, Research School of Economics, Australian National University in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 639.

in new window

Date of creation: Apr 2010
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:auu:dpaper:639
Contact details of provider: Postal: +61 2 6125 3807
Phone: +61 2 6125 3807
Fax: +61 2 6125 0744
Web page:

More information through EDIRC

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

as in new window
  1. Meng, Xin & Gregory, Robert & Wang, Youjuan, 2005. "Poverty, inequality, and growth in urban China, 1986-2000," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 33(4), pages 710-729, December.
  2. Liu, Xuejun & Park, Albert & Zhao, Yaohui, 2010. "Explaining Rising Returns to Education in Urban China in the 1990s," IZA Discussion Papers 4872, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  3. Gong, Cathy Honge & Meng, Xin, 2008. "Regional Price Differences in Urban China 1986-2001: Estimation and Implication," IZA Discussion Papers 3621, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  4. Loren Brandt & Carsten A. Holz, 2006. "Spatial Price Differences in China: Estimates and Implications," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 55, pages 43-86.
  5. Daron Acemoglu, 2000. "Technical Change, Inequality, and the Labor Market," NBER Working Papers 7800, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Marcos Chamon & Eswar Prasad, 2008. "Why are Saving Rates of Urban Households in China Rising?," IMF Working Papers 08/145, International Monetary Fund.
  7. Xin Meng & Robert G Gregory, . "Impact of Interupted Education on Earnings: The Educational Cost of the Chinese Cultural revolution," Canadian International Labour Network Working Papers 40, McMaster University.
  8. Dinardo, J. & Fortin, N.M. & Lemieux, T., 1994. "Labor Market Institutions and the Distribution of Wages, 1973-1992: A Semiparametric Approach," Cahiers de recherche 9406, Centre interuniversitaire de recherche en économie quantitative, CIREQ.
  9. Thomas Lemieux, 2002. "Decomposing changes in wage distributions: a unified approach," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 35(4), pages 646-688, November.
  10. Juhn, Chinhui & Murphy, Kevin M & Pierce, Brooks, 1993. "Wage Inequality and the Rise in Returns to Skill," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 101(3), pages 410-42, June.
  11. Meng, Xin & Gregory, R G, 2002. "The Impact of Interrupted Education on Subsequent Educational Attainment: A Cost of the Chinese Cultural Revolution," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 50(4), pages 935-59, July.
  12. Gibson, John & Huang, Jikun & Rozelle, Scott, 2001. "Improving Estimates Of Inequality And Poverty From Urban China'S Household Income And Expenditure Survey," Working Papers 11989, University of California, Davis, Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics.
  13. Zhang, Junsen & Zhao, Yaohui & Park, Albert & Song, Xiaoqing, 2005. "Economic returns to schooling in urban China, 1988 to 2001," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 33(4), pages 730-752, December.
  14. Dwayne Benjamin & Loren Brandt & John Giles & Sangui Wang, 2005. "Income Inequality During China's Economic Transition," Working Papers tecipa-238, University of Toronto, Department of Economics.
  15. Thomas Lemieux, 2006. "Increasing Residual Wage Inequality: Composition Effects, Noisy Data, or Rising Demand for Skill?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(3), pages 461-498, June.
  16. repec:cup:cbooks:9780521771269 is not listed on IDEAS
  17. Meng, Xin & Gregory, Robert & Wan, Guanghua, 2006. "China Urban Poverty and its Contributing Factors, 1986-2000," Working Paper Series RP2006/133, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:auu:dpaper:639. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: ()

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.