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Geography and educational inequality in China

Publication Abstract

Hannum, Emily, and Meiyan Wang. 2006. "Geography and educational inequality in China." China Economic Review, 17(3): 253-265.

Since the 1980s, educational reforms in China have decentralized administration and finance and privatized costs. These changes have emerged in the context of rapid economic growth and rising regional economic disparities. The reforms have mobilized new resources in support of education, but they have also exacerbated regional disparities in funding for schools. Analyses of trends in school finance and expenditures have emerged, but detailed studies of the shifting ties between geography and educational outcomes in the population have not. Using 2000 census data on year and location of birth and educational attainment, we begin to address this gap. We compare the links between birth province and educational outcomes across 5-year birth cohorts to illuminate trends in region-based inequalities. Results show that the percent of variation in years of schooling explained by birth province declined for cohorts born through the early 1960s, and then increased thereafter.

Additional analyses use a dissimilarity index to characterize the strength of the link between geography and access to each level of schooling. This index indicates that the link between geography and access to primary school has greatly increased across cohorts, as the few without access to primary school are ever more concentrated in poor areas. The link between birth province and access to subsequent levels of schooling shows mixed trends through cohorts born in the early 1960s: stability for junior high school and a weakening trend for senior high school and college. Thereafter, the dissimilarity index increased, substantially for junior high school and slightly for senior high school and college.

Results attest to the enduring significance of geography as an educational stratifier in China. More broadly, results suggest the importance of regional inequalities in conditioning the relationship between development and educational stratification.

DOI:10.1016/j.chieco.2006.04.003 (Full Text)

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