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

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  • Meng, Xin

    (Australian National University)

  • Shen, Kailing

    (Australian National University)

  • Xue, Sen

    (Jinan University)

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Meng, Xin & Shen, Kailing & Xue, Sen, 2010. "Economic Reform, Education Expansion, and Earnings Inequality for Urban Males in China, 1988-2007," IZA Discussion Papers 4919, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp4919
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    Cited by:

    1. Appleton, Simon & Song, Lina & Xia, Qingjie, 2014. "Understanding Urban Wage Inequality in China 1988–2008: Evidence from Quantile Analysis," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 62(C), pages 1-13.
    2. Li, Shi & Whalley, John & Xing, Chunbing, 2014. "China's higher education expansion and unemployment of college graduates," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 30(C), pages 567-582.
    3. Xing, Chunbing & Yang, Peng & Li, Zhilong, 2018. "The medium-run effect of China's higher education expansion on the unemployment of college graduates," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 51(C), pages 181-193.
    4. Xing, Chunbing & Li, Shi, 2012. "Residual wage inequality in urban China, 1995–2007," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 23(2), pages 205-222.
    5. Cui, Yuling & Nahm, Daehoon & Tani, Massimiliano, 2013. "Earnings Differentials and Returns to Education in China, 1995-2008," IZA Discussion Papers 7349, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    6. Nie, Haifeng & Xing, Chunbing, 2019. "Education expansion, assortative marriage, and income inequality in China," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 55(C), pages 37-51.
    7. Kang, Lili & Peng, Fei, 2014. "Acquisition Premiums of Executive Compensation in China: a Matching View," MPRA Paper 55766, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    8. Xing, Chunbing, 2016. "Human Capital and Urbanization in the People’s Republic of China," ADBI Working Papers 603, Asian Development Bank Institute.
    9. Wenshu Gao & Russell Smyth, 2012. "Returns to Schooling in Urban China, 2001-2010: Evidence from Three Waves of the China Urban Labor Survey," Monash Economics Working Papers 50-12, Monash University, Department of Economics.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    China; earnings inequality;

    JEL classification:

    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials
    • P2 - Economic Systems - - Socialist Systems and Transition Economies
    • P3 - Economic Systems - - Socialist Institutions and Their Transitions

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