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

71 Pages Posted: 14 Feb 2015 Last revised: 19 Feb 2015

Mark Koyama

George Mason University - Department of Economics; George Mason University - Mercatus Center

Melanie Meng Xue

Department of Economics & Center for Economic History, Northwestern University

Date Written: February 12, 2015

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

JEL Classification: N45, K42, I2

Suggested Citation

Koyama, Mark and Xue, Melanie Meng, The Literary Inquisition: The Persecution of Intellectuals and Human Capital Accumulation in China (February 12, 2015). GMU Working Paper in Economics No. 15-12. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2563609 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2563609

Mark Koyama (Contact Author)

George Mason University - Department of Economics ( email )

4400 University Drive
Fairfax, VA 22030
United States

HOME PAGE: http://mason.gmu.edu/~mkoyama2/About.html

George Mason University - Mercatus Center ( email )

3434 Washington Blvd., 4th Floor
Arlington, VA 22201
United States

Melanie Meng Xue

Department of Economics & Center for Economic History, Northwestern University ( email )

2211 Campus Drive
Office #3197
Evanston, IL 60208
United States

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