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The Economics of Communist Party Membership: The Curious Case of Rising Numbers and Wage Premium during China’s Transition

  • Appleton, Simon

    ()

    (University of Nottingham)

  • Knight, John

    ()

    (University of Oxford)

  • Song, Lina

    ()

    (University of Nottingham)

  • Xia, Qingjie

    ()

    (Peking University)

Why is it that, as the Chinese Communist Party has loosened its grip, abandoned its core beliefs, and marketized the economy, its membership has risen markedly along with the economic benefits of joining? We use three national household surveys, spanning eleven years, to answer this question with respect to labour market rewards in urban China. We conceptualize individual demand for Party membership as an investment in “political capital” that brings monetary rewards in terms of higher wages. This wage premium has risen with the growing wage differentials associated with the emergence of a labour market and the continuing value of political status in the semi-marketized transitional economy. However, a demand-side explanation does not explain the fact that the wage premium is higher for the personal characteristics that reduce the probability of membership. We develop an explanation in terms of a rationing of places and a scarcity value for members with those characteristics.

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Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 3454.

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Length: 32 pages
Date of creation: Apr 2008
Date of revision:
Publication status: published in: Journal of Development Studies, 2009, 45, (2), 256-275
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp3454
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  1. Li, Hongbin & Liu, Pak-Wai & Zhang, Junsen & Ma, Ning, 2006. "Economic Returns to Communist Party Membership: Evidence from Urban Chinese Twins," IZA Discussion Papers 2118, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  2. Hongbin Li & Pak Wai Liu & Ning Ma & Junsen Zhang, 2005. "Economic Returns to Communist Party Membership: Evidence from Chinese Twins," Discussion Papers 00015, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Department of Economics.
  3. Heckman, James, 2013. "Sample selection bias as a specification error," Applied Econometrics, Publishing House "SINERGIA PRESS", vol. 31(3), pages 129-137.
  4. Ashenfelter, Orley & Krueger, Alan B, 1994. "Estimates of the Economic Returns to Schooling from a New Sample of Twins," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(5), pages 1157-73, December.
  5. Appleton, Simon & Knight, John & Song, Lina & Xia, Qingjie, 2002. "Labor retrenchment in China: Determinants and consequences," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 13(2-3), pages 252-275.
  6. Liu, Zhiqiang, 2003. "The Economic Impact and Determinants of Investment in Human and Political Capital in China," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 51(4), pages 823-49, July.
  7. Groves, Theodore & Yongmiao Hong & John McMillan & Barry Naughton, 1995. "China's Evolving Managerial Labor Market," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 103(4), pages 873-92, August.
  8. John Knight & Lina Song, 2003. "Increasing urban wage inequality in China," The Economics of Transition, The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, vol. 11(4), pages 597-619, December.
  9. Simon Appleton & John Knight & Lina Song & Qingjie Xia, 2004. "Contrasting paradigms: segmentation and competitiveness in the formation of the chinese labour market," Journal of Chinese Economic and Business Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 2(3), pages 185-205.
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