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Higher Education Expansion in China, 1999–2003: Impact on Graduate Employability

Dongshu Ou () and Zhong Zhao

China & World Economy, 2022, vol. 30, issue 2, 117-141

Abstract: We examine the impact of China's higher education expansion on labor market outcomes for young college graduates using China's 2005 1 Percent Population Sample Survey. Exploiting variations in the expansion of university places across provinces and high school cohorts between 1999 and 2003, we apply a difference‐in‐differences model and take into account the demand‐side effect by using the Bartik index. We find that the expansion of higher education in China decreased unemployment rates among males and college graduates in the short term. However, the policy decreased women's labor force participation and individual earnings in high‐skilled white‐collar jobs. We further discuss potential channels affecting the outcomes that were observed. Our results illustrate the broad economic benefits of higher education. The findings shed new light on the contribution of young skilled labor in the economic growth of China and call for policies that can alleviate the short‐term negative impact of higher education on individual students and maximize human capital. Our study also provides an interesting example of the consequences of the unequal expansion of higher education opportunities on the labor market of an emerging economy.

Date: 2022
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Working Paper: Higher Education Expansion and Labor Market Outcomes for Young College Graduates (2016) Downloads
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