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The Literary Inquisition: The Persecution of Intellectuals and Human Capital Accumulation in China

Mark Koyama () and Melanie Meng Xue

MPRA Paper from University Library of Munich, Germany

Abstract: Imperial China used an empire-wide system of examinations to select civil servants. Using a semiparametric matching-based difference-in-differences estimator, we show that the persecution of scholar-officials led to a decline in the number of examinees at the provincial and prefectural level. To explore the long-run impact of literary inquisitions we employ a model to show that persecutions could reduce the provision of basic education and have a lasting effect on human capital accumulation. Using the 1982 census we find that literary inquisitions reduced literacy by between 2.25 and 4 percentage points at a prefectural level in the early 20th century. This corresponds to a 69% increase in the probability of an individual being illiterate. Prefectures affected by the literary inquisition had a higher proportion of workers in agriculture until the 1990s.

Keywords: China; Human Capital; Institutions; Persecutions; Persistence (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: N0 N45 O1 O15 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2015-02-11
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-cna, nep-his, nep-hrm and nep-tra
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