Evolution of Living Standards and Human Capital in China in the 18-20th Centuries: Evidences from Real Wages, Age-Heaping, and Anthropometrics
University of Tuebingen
Stephen L. Morgan
University of Nottingham - School of Contemporary Chinese Studies; University of Melbourne - School of Historical Studies
London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) - Department of Economic History
September 19, 2009
Explorations in Economic History, Forthcoming
This article mobilizes and integrates both existing and new time series data on real wages, physical heights and age-heaping to examine the long-term trend of living standards and human capital for China during the eighteenth to twentieth centuries. Our findings confirm the existence of a substantial gap in living standards between China and North-western Europe in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. They also reveal a sustained decline in living standards and human capital at least in South China from the mid-nineteenth century followed by a recovery in the early twentieth century. However, comparative examination of age-heaping data shows that the level of Chinese human capital was relatively high by world standard during this period. We make a preliminary exploration of the historical implication of our findings.
Keywords: China, Standard of living, Human capital, Real wages, Height, Numeracy
JEL Classification: I30, N35, O57Accepted Paper Series
Date posted: December 18, 2009 ; Last revised: December 28, 2009
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