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The Regional Distribution of Skill Premia in Urban China


  • John Whalley
  • Chunbing Xing


We document and discuss the implications of a sharp increase in the regional dispersion of skill premia in China in recent years. This has previously been little noted or discussed. We use three urban household surveys for 1995, 2002, and 2007 and estimate skill premia at provincial and city levels. Results show an increase in the skill premium across all regions between 1995 and 2002, but only coastal regions show significant increases in skill premia between 2002 and 2007. For 2007, coastal regions also have much higher within region wage inequality and this contributes more to overall urban wage inequality than within region inequality of non-coastal regions. Using a fixed effects model at city level, we find that ownership restructuring is a significant factor in driving up skill premia during the first period, and that the ongoing process of China's integration into the global economy plays a significant and regionally concentrated role in the second period.

Suggested Citation

  • John Whalley & Chunbing Xing, 2010. "The Regional Distribution of Skill Premia in Urban China," NBER Working Papers 16575, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:16575
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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Guanghua Wan & Ming Lu & Zhao Chen, 2007. "Globalization And Regional Income Inequality: Empirical Evidence From Within China," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 53(1), pages 35-59, March.
    2. Lee Branstetter & Nicholas Lardy, 2006. "China's Embrace of Globalization," NBER Working Papers 12373, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Dong, Xiao-yuan & Bowles, Paul, 2002. "Segmentation and discrimination in China's emerging industrial labor market," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 13(2-3), pages 170-196.
    4. Zhi Wang & Shang-Jin Wei, 2010. "What Accounts for the Rising Sophistication of China's Exports?," NBER Chapters,in: China's Growing Role in World Trade, pages 63-104 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Xing, Chunbing, 2009. "Migration, Self-selection, and Income Distributions: Evidence from Rural and Urban China," MPRA Paper 17036, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    6. Xiaobo Zhang & Kevin Zhang, 2003. "How Does Globalisation Affect Regional Inequality within A Developing Country? Evidence from China," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 39(4), pages 47-67.
    7. 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.
    8. Hongbin Cai & Yuyu Chen & Li-An Zhou, 2010. "Income and Consumption Inequality in Urban China: 1992-2003," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 58(3), pages 385-413, April.
    9. Peter K. Schott, 2008. "The relative sophistication of Chinese exports," Economic Policy, CEPR;CES;MSH, vol. 23, pages 5-49, January.
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    Cited by:

    1. 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.
    2. Cui, Yuling & Nahm, Daehoon & Tani, Massimiliano, 2013. "Earnings Differentials and Returns to Education in China, 1995-2008," IZA Discussion Papers 7349, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    3. Kwon, Ohyun & Fleisher, Belton M. & Deng, Quheng, 2011. "Evolution of the Industrial Wage Structure in China Since 1980," IZA Discussion Papers 5880, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J00 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - General - - - General
    • J01 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - General - - - Labor Economics: General
    • J30 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - General
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials

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