Economics Seminar Series

Can Elite College Education Change One's Fate in China?

Can Elite College Education Change One's Fate in China?

Dr Hongbin Li.

Dr Hongbin Li

Using our own survey data of 32,000 recent college graduates, we empirically investigate how receiving an elite college education affects social mobility in China. At a level similar to prior literature, we find a strong correlation between college graduates’ income and their parents’ income. However, the impact of receiving an elite college education in moving up the income ladder is much larger: it is twice as large as that of moving parental income from the bottom to the top quintile. Elite education not only is a more important predictor of income, but also is accessible to students from lower income families. In fact, our data indicate that students from lower-income backgrounds only have a slight disadvantage in admission to elite colleges, a disadvantage due to their lower score in the National College Entrance Exam; conditional on scoring above the elite college admission cutoff scores, students from low- and high-income families have an equal chance of elite college admission. These results together suggest that access to elite education through China’s exam-based college admission system is an important mechanism to increase social mobility, at least among those who have a college degree. However, we do not deny the importance of family background. In fact, our evidence indicates that elite education cannot alter the correlation of income ranks across generations. Although an elite college education does not affect the probability of a college graduate entering into an elite occupation or industry, parental backgrounds do.


DATE: Friday, October 22, 2021 

TIME: 3:30-5:00 p.m.


(Meeting ID: 955 7039 0263 Password: 211022)