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

See all articles by Joerg Baten

Joerg Baten

University of Tuebingen

Stephen L. Morgan

University of Nottingham - Nottingham University Business School; University of Nottingham Ningbo China, Faculty of Social Sciences

Debin Ma

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) - Department of Economic History

Qing Wang

Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich

Date Written: September 19, 2009

Abstract

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

Suggested Citation

Baten, Joerg and Morgan, Stephen Lloyd and Ma, Debin and Wang, Qing, Evolution of Living Standards and Human Capital in China in the 18-20th Centuries: Evidences from Real Wages, Age-Heaping, and Anthropometrics (September 19, 2009). Explorations in Economic History, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1524863

Joerg Baten

University of Tuebingen ( email )

Wilhelmstr. 19
72074 Tuebingen, Baden Wuerttemberg 72074
Germany

Stephen Lloyd Morgan

University of Nottingham - Nottingham University Business School ( email )

Business School South
University of Nottingham
Nottingham, NG8 1BB
United Kingdom
+44 115 82 32116 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/Chinese/people/s.morgan

University of Nottingham Ningbo China, Faculty of Social Sciences ( email )

199 Taikang East Road
Ningbo, Zhejiang 315100
China
+86 186-6780-2355 (Phone)

Debin Ma (Contact Author)

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) - Department of Economic History ( email )

Houghton Street
London WC2A 2AE
United Kingdom

Qing Wang

Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich ( email )

Geschwister-Scholl-Platz 1
Munich, Bavaria 80539
Germany

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