Evolution of Living Standards and Human Capital in China in the 18-20th Centuries: Evidences from Real Wages, Age-Heaping, and Anthropometrics
Posted: 18 Dec 2009 Last revised: 28 Dec 2009
Date Written: September 19, 2009
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, O57
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