The Value of Elite Education in China

70 Pages Posted: 1 Sep 2017 Last revised: 13 Feb 2018

See all articles by Ruixue Jia

Ruixue Jia

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) - 21st Century China Center

Li Hongbin

Tsinghua University

Date Written: December 1, 2017


This paper studies the labor market consequences of elite education in China, examines the relative importance of elite education and parental background, and sheds light on the mechanisms underlying the impacts of elite education on labor market outcomes. We overcome challenges of data availability and selection bias by compiling our own large-scale dataset and exploiting a discontinuity in elite university admissions eligibility that exists around college entrance exam cutoff scores. We find that receiving an elite education increases the monthly wages of workers by 30-40%. Elite education affects inter-generational mobility, but it does not change the influence that parental background has on employment outcomes. There is suggestive evidence that the wage premium is more likely to be explained by university-related networks and signaling than human capital.

Keywords: education, mobility, human capital, China, college exam, college entrace, elite education

Suggested Citation

Jia, Ruixue and Hongbin, Li, The Value of Elite Education in China (December 1, 2017). 21st Century China Center Research Paper No. 2017-07, Available at SSRN: or

Ruixue Jia (Contact Author)

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) - 21st Century China Center ( email )

9500 Gilman Drive #0519
La Jolla, CA 92093-0519
United States

Li Hongbin

Tsinghua University ( email )

Beijing, 100084

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