Long Live Keju! The Persistent Effects of China's Imperial Examination System

71 Pages Posted: 13 Jun 2016 Last revised: 1 Nov 2018

See all articles by Ting Chen

Ting Chen

Hong Kong Baptist University

James Kai-Sing Kung

The University of Hong Kong - Faculty of Business and Economics

Chicheng Ma

The University of Hong Kong

Date Written: June 26, 2017

Abstract

The effect of China’s civil examination system (keju) on human capital outcomes persists to this day. Using the variation in the density of jinshi—the highest qualification—across 278 Chinese prefectures in the Ming-Qing period (1368-1905) to proxy for the keju effect, and river distance to a prefecture’s nearest locations of pine and bamboo—the main ingredients for producing ink and paper—as instrumental variable, we find that an additional jinshi per 10,000 people during the Ming-Qing period leads to an increase in schooling of 0.7 years in the present day. Moreover, the persistent effect of keju can be explained by the transmission of human capital across generations and a culture of valuing education. Finally, cultural transmission was significantly weakened by the Cultural Revolution (1966-76), as parents responded to the deadly attacks on intellectuals by discounting the value of education.

Keywords: Persistence, Human Capital, Culture, Institutions, Cultural Transmission, Civil Exam System (Keju), China

JEL Classification: N15, O43, Z10

Suggested Citation

Chen, Ting and Kung, James Kai-Sing and Ma, Chicheng, Long Live Keju! The Persistent Effects of China's Imperial Examination System (June 26, 2017). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2793790 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2793790

Ting Chen

Hong Kong Baptist University ( email )

WLB 518, 34 Renfrew Road
Kowloon Tong
Hong Kong, Hong Kong NA
Hong Kong

James Kai-Sing Kung (Contact Author)

The University of Hong Kong - Faculty of Business and Economics ( email )

Pokfulam Road
Hong Kong
China

Chicheng Ma

The University of Hong Kong ( email )

Pokfulam Road
Hong Kong, Pokfulam HK
China

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