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Relative Earnings of Husbands and Wives in Urban China

Hongbin Li (), Lai Ting Sin, Junsen Zhang and Yaohui Zhao

Discussion Papers from Chinese University of Hong Kong, Department of Economics

Abstract: This paper studies the relative contribution of husbands and wives to the family income in the process of economic transition by using the Chinese Urban Household Survey data from 1988 to 1999. We find that, contrary to the experience of western countries, the share of wives¡¦ labor earnings in urban China tends to decline slightly over time and the share of husbands¡¦ labor earnings is stable. This implies that the role of urban Chinese husbands as the main financial supporters of their families becomes relatively more important during economic transition. We argue that this trend may have reflected the restoration of the functions of household production and labor market in the process of economic transition. This restoration allows households to allocate time, effort and human capital investment for each household member and for each household and market activity in a more efficient way. Our further empirical analysis suggests that at least two factors have accounted for the strengthening of the relative importance of husbands in contributing to family income in urban China: 1) the enlargement of the positive effect of children on husbands and the opposite effect for wives; and 2) the shrinkage of the positive income effect on the leisure of husbands.

New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-sea and nep-tra
Date: 2005-09
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