Building Schools Near the Front Doors of Poor Peasants: The Effects of a Massive Rural Education Expansion in Pre-reform China

68 Pages Posted: 25 Jul 2022

See all articles by Yi Chen

Yi Chen

ShanghaiTech University - School of Entrepreneurship and Management

Ziying Fan

Shanghai University of Finance and Economics - School of Public Economics & Administration

Xiaomin Gu

Shanghai University of International Business and Economics

Li-An Zhou

Peking University - Guanghua School of Management

Date Written: July 18, 2022

Abstract

On the eve of its economic reforms, China achieved a much higher level of secondary education than other countries with a similar per capita income at the time. This study investigates the pre-reform formation of China's human capital by examining a massive rural education expansion program during the Cultural Revolution that increased the number of secondary schools more than tenfold. We examine newly compiled county-level data from local gazetteers and reach three important findings. First, we provide strong evidence that the program significantly improved rural children's educational attainment, and that teachers contributed more to this improvement than schools. Second, this rapid expansion was associated with a deterioration in education quality, but the presence of sufficient teachers helped mitigate the negative trade-off between quantity and quality. Third, by building a pool of middle-skilled labor years later, the education expansion program boosted local agricultural yields and increased the productivity of the township and village enterprises that emerged after the reform.

Keywords: Rural Education, Human Capital, Cultural Revolution, Chinese Economy

JEL Classification: I25, I28, J24, N35, O15

Suggested Citation

Chen, Yi and Fan, Ziying and Gu, Xiaomin and Zhou, Li-An, Building Schools Near the Front Doors of Poor Peasants: The Effects of a Massive Rural Education Expansion in Pre-reform China (July 18, 2022). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4165289 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4165289

Yi Chen

ShanghaiTech University - School of Entrepreneurship and Management ( email )

100 Haike Rd
Pudong Xinqu, Shanghai
China

Ziying Fan

Shanghai University of Finance and Economics - School of Public Economics & Administration ( email )

Shanghai, 200433
China

Xiaomin Gu

Shanghai University of International Business and Economics ( email )

Shanghai, Shanghai 201620
China

Li-An Zhou (Contact Author)

Peking University - Guanghua School of Management ( email )

Peking University
Beijing, Beijing 100871
China

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