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Estimating returns to education in urban China: Evidence from a natural experiment in schooling reform

Yi Chen, Sheng Jiang and Li-An Zhou

Journal of Comparative Economics, 2020, vol. 48, issue 1, 218-233

Abstract: Whereas there is a large literature on estimating returns to education in China, few studies have attempted to address the endogeneity of schooling choices. We explore the arguably exogenous changes in the duration of secondary education as the instrumental variable to identify the causal effect of years of schooling in urban China. The schooling years in most middle schools were reduced from three years to two years during the Cultural Revolution. The Chinese government gradually restored the middle school education years from two years to three years after 1978. An important feature of these policy changes is their large geographic variations. From local gazetteers, we find out the exact years when education years were reduced from three to two and when they were restored from two to three. Using the exogenous variation in schooling reform, we estimate that the returns to education are 12.7% for both monthly wage and disposable income.

Date: 2020
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DOI: 10.1016/j.jce.2019.09.004

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