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Language, Health Outcomes and Health Inequality

Haining Wang, Zhiming Cheng and Russell Smyth ()

No 43-16, Monash Economics Working Papers from Monash University, Department of Economics

Abstract: We examine the health returns to proficiency in Mandarin in urban China using longitudinal data from the China Family Panel Studies. We find that greater proficiency in Mandarin improves self-reported health, mental health and capacity to perform activities of daily living. While we find that Mandarin proficiency increases incidence of chronic disease, Mandarin proficiency lagged two years is associated with reduced incidence of chronic disease. We also examine the relationship between Mandarin proficiency and health inequality and find that differences in Mandarin proficiency contribute to inequalities in health outcomes at the community level, district level and within a gender-age-education defined reference group. The decomposition results show that differences in Mandarin proficiency account for between 12 per cent and 28 per cent of health inequality, depending on the health indicator. Our results suggest that promoting ‘standard Mandarin’ can serve as a vehicle to improve health outcomes and reduce health inequality.

Keywords: China; Mandarin proficiency; health outcomes; health inequalities; human capital (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: I12 I14 I24 I26 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-cna, nep-hea and nep-tra
Date: 2016-11
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