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Losing the future: Household wealth from urban housing demolition and children's human capital in China

Feng Li and Jing Jian Xiao

China Economic Review, 2020, vol. 63, issue C

Abstract: Some literature observes the negative but not very significant effect of household wealth growth on children's educational outcomes. This surprising finding is not easily reconciled with the traditional explanation that relaxed economic constraints caused by wealth growth can promote human capital accumulation. This paper proposes an alternative explanation for the causal relationship between wealth growth and human capital, which could be negative: individuals tend to reduce human capital investment following the decline in their labor supply induced by wealth growth, given that investing in human capital is mainly for employment competitiveness. This explanation is supported by evidence from the case of urban housing demolition in China, in which affected households could obtain substantial wealth growth by considerable demolition compensation thanks to the real estate boom in China. Specifically, using two nationally representative datasets, we find that Chinese households that have experienced demolition relatively have more wealth, less labor supply, lower propensity to accumulate children's human capital, and consequently, have children with lower educational achievement. These results suggest that China's economy may be losing its momentum because of the decline in labor supply and human capital accumulation brought about by the ongoing large-scale urban housing demolition.

Keywords: Urban housing demolition; Household wealth; Labor supply; Human capital (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: J2 P36 R38 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2020
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DOI: 10.1016/j.chieco.2020.101533

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China Economic Review is currently edited by B.M. Fleisher, K. X. D. Huang, M.E. Lovely, Y. Wen, X. Zhang and X. Zhu

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