Famine and Young Leader Boom—China’s 1962-63 Phenomenon
40 Pages Posted: 22 Apr 2021
Date Written: March 10, 2021
This paper analyzes the background information of business and political leaders born around China’s 1959-1961 famine, including the CEOs and board chairman of China’s public firms and the mayors and CPC secretaries of cities. We find that the likelihood of becoming business (political) leaders for people born in 1962 and 1963 jumps to 2-3 times as high as those born before the famine. The upsurge gradually declines for the following birth cohorts. This phenomenon exists not only at the country level, but also across the provinces. In a difference-in-differences test, we find evidence indicating that the 1962-63 phenomenon is caused by the close to 40 percent birth loss during the 1959-1961 famine. Our findings not only shed light on the unexpected long-run social impact of the famine, but also lend support to the prevalence of meritocracy in both business and politics in China.
Keywords: Famine, Meritocracy, Entrepreneur, Politician
JEL Classification: G30, J10, H10
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