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The great proletarian cultural revolution, disruptions to education, and returns to schooling in urban China

  • Giles, John
  • Park, Albert
  • Wang, Meiyan

In determining whether a country's higher education system should be expanded, it is important for policymakers first to determine the extent to which high private returns to post-secondary education are an indication of the scarcity of graduates instead of the high unobserved ability of students who choose to attend post-secondary education. To this end, the paper identifies the returns to schooling in urban China using individual-level variation in educational attainment caused by exogenous city-wide disruptions to education during the Cultural Revolution from 1966 to 1976. For city-cohorts who experienced greater disruptions, children's educational attainment became less correlated with that of their fathers and more influenced by whether their fathers held administrative positions. The analysis calculates returns to college education using data from the China Urban Labor Survey conducted in five large cities in 2001. The results are consistent with the selection of high-ability students into higher education. The analysis also demonstrates that these results are unlikely to be driven by sample selection bias associated with migration, or by alternative pathways through which the Cultural Revolution could have affected adult productivity.

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Paper provided by The World Bank in its series Policy Research Working Paper Series with number 4729.

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Date of creation: 01 Sep 2008
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Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:4729
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  1. Orley Ashenfelter & Cecilia Rouse, 1998. "Income, Schooling, And Ability: Evidence From A New Sample Of Identical Twins," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 113(1), pages 253-284, February.
  2. James J. Heckman & Xuesong Li, 2004. "Selection bias, comparative advantage and heterogeneous returns to education: evidence from China in 2000," Pacific Economic Review, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 9(3), pages 155-171, October.
  3. Emily Hannum & Albert Park & Alan de Brauw & Scott Rozelle, . "Returns to Education in Rural China," REAP Papers 22569, Rural Education Action Project at Stanford University.
  4. Fleisher, Belton M. & Wang, Xiaojun, 2004. "Skill differentials, return to schooling, and market segmentation in a transition economy: the case of Mainland China," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 73(1), pages 315-328, February.
  5. Esther Duflo, 2001. "Schooling and Labor Market Consequences of School Construction in Indonesia: Evidence from an Unusual Policy Experiment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(4), pages 795-813, September.
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  7. Thomas J. Kane & Cecilia E. Rouse, 1993. "Labor Market Returns to Two- and Four-Year Colleges: Is a Credit a Credit and Do Degrees Matter?," NBER Working Papers 4268, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Meng, Xin & Gregory, Bob, 2007. "Exploring the Impact of Interrupted Education on Earnings: The Educational Cost of the Chinese Cultural Revolution," IZA Discussion Papers 2548, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  9. Harmon, C & Ian Walker, 1995. "Estimates of the economic return to schooling for the UK," IFS Working Papers W95/12, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  10. In Utero, 2006. "Is the 1918 Influenza Pandemic Over? Long-Term Effects of In Utero Influenza Exposure in the Post-1940 U.S. Population," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 114(4), pages 672-712, August.
  11. Thomas Lemieux & David Card, 2001. "Education, earnings, and the "Canadian G.I. Bill"," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 34(2), pages 313-344, May.
  12. Angrist, Joshua D & Krueger, Alan B, 1991. "Does Compulsory School Attendance Affect Schooling and Earnings?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 106(4), pages 979-1014, November.
  13. Andrea Ichino & Rudolf Winter-Ebmer, 2004. "The Long-Run Educational Cost of World War II," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 22(1), pages 57-86, January.
  14. Hongbin Li & Pak Wai Liu & Ning Ma & Junsen Zhang, 2005. "Does Education Pay in Urban China? Estimating Returns to Education Using Twins," Discussion Papers 00013, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Department of Economics.
  15. 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.
  16. John Giles & Albert Park & Fang Cai, 2003. "How has Economic Restructuring Affected China’s Urban Workers?," William Davidson Institute Working Papers Series 2003-628, William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan.
  17. Douglas Staiger & James H. Stock, 1994. "Instrumental Variables Regression with Weak Instruments," NBER Technical Working Papers 0151, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  18. Byron, Rayond P & Manaloto, Evelyn Q, 1990. "Returns to Education in China," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 38(4), pages 783-96, July.
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