The Literary Inquisition: The Persecution of Intellectuals and Human Capital Accumulation in China
71 Pages Posted: 14 Feb 2015 Last revised: 19 Feb 2015
Date Written: February 12, 2015
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
JEL Classification: N45, K42, I2
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation