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Inequality of opportunity in earnings in rural China

Xinjie Shi

Journal of Asian Economics, 2022, vol. 81, issue C

Abstract: This paper explores the role of ‘inequality of opportunity’ in individual earnings in rural China, which is attributed to ‘circumstantial’ factors over which individuals have no control, including family background, gender, ethnic minority status and region of birth. These circumstances are contrasted with ‘efforts’ or choices that individuals make, which also impact on their individual earnings. Utilising the China Labour-force Dynamics Survey (CLDS) 2014, I measure the share of inequality of opportunity in the overall inequality of individual annual earnings for the entire sample and for each of four ten-year birth cohorts in rural China. The empirical results revealed that the share of inequality of opportunity in individual earnings for the full sample is 20.4% of the GE(0) coefficient. The adoption of machine learning methods provides a wide range of estimates between 16.4% (regression tress) and 25.4% (forests). Across all birth cohorts, gender is consistently the largest single contributor to inequality of opportunity, while family background is relatively more important for younger cohorts. A closer investigation indicates that those who find themselves in the worst circumstances are likely to exert lower level of effort, not because they don’t want to try harder, but because their circumstances prevent them from doing so.

Keywords: Inequality of opportunity; Earnings; Rural China (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2022
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DOI: 10.1016/j.asieco.2022.101498

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