Working Papers

Peer Effects, Parental Migration and Children's Human Capital: A Spatial Equilibrium Analysis in China (Job Market Paper) 

(Granted by Doctoral Fellowships of Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation)

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Abstract: In China, migrant children are disadvantaged and sometimes cannot enroll in public schools in migration destinations. Some migrant workers have to leave their children behind in their hometowns, which causes the left-behind children problem. In this study, I first identify the peer effects of migrant children and left-behind children on their classmates using classroom random assignment. I then analyze the human capital consequences of the enrollment restriction on migrant students within a spatial equilibrium model. My results show that there are negative spillovers from migrant and left-behind students. The negative effect is generally larger from left-behind students, but both shrink over time. In the counterfactual analysis, I find that if the enrollment restriction on migrant children is relaxed, migration of parents and children will increase, and the average human capital in the society will also increase. Low-skill families from small cities benefit most. This policy increases human capital through two channels. First, it directly increases enrollment in good public schools and alleviates the left-behind children problem. Second, it attracts more parents to take their left-behind children to migrate with them and indirectly reduces the total spillovers. This is the first formal quantitative analysis of public school enrollment policy in China.

Fertility, Child Gender, and Parental Migration Decision: Evidence from One Child Policy in Chinawith Lin Lin and Junsen Zhang (Reject and Resubmit in The Review of Economics and Statistics)                            

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Abstract: In this study, we investigate the effect of the number and gender of children on parents' rural-to-urban migration in China. The canonical instrumental variable approach based on China's One Child Policy may only provide a combination of these two effects, because One Child Policy led to not only a reduction in the birth rate but also an increase in the ratio of boys born in China. We separately estimate these two effects by constructing a new semi-parametric method which incorporates a specific matching strategy. Results show that the addition of one girl in the family will result in a 13.7% increase in the probability that both parents in rural households migrate to urban areas; whereas the addition of one boy will result in a 24.3% increase in this probability, which is almost twice as large as the increase for a girl. Therefore, without considering the effect of child gender, the canonical instrumental variable estimate for the effect of the number of children will be heavily downward biased.

Migration, Housing Constraint, and Inequality: A Quantitative Analysis of China

with Min Fang (Under Review in The Economic Journal)

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Abstract: We investigate the role of migration and housing constraints in determining income inequality within and across Chinese cities. Combining microdata and a spatial equilibrium model, we quantify the impact of the massive spatial reallocation of workers and the rapid growth of housing costs on the national income distribution. We first show several stylized facts detailing the strong positive correlation between migration inflows, housing costs, and imputed income inequality among Chinese cities. We then build a spatial equilibrium model featuring workers with heterogeneous skills, housing constraints, and heterogeneous returns from housing ownership to explain these facts. Our quantitative results indicate that the reductions in migration costs and the disproportionate growth in productivity across cities and skills result in the observed massive migration flows. Combining with the tight land supply policy in big cities, the expansion of the housing demand causes the rapid growth of housing costs, and enlarges the inequality between local housing owners and migrants. The counterfactual analysis shows that if we redistribute land supply increment by migrant flow and increase land supply toward cities with more migrants, we could lower the within-city income inequality by 14% and the national income inequality by 18%. Meanwhile, we can simultaneously encourage more migration into higher productivity cities.

Peer Effects of Migrant and Left-behind Children: Evidence from Classroom Random Assignment in China                                        

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Abstract: In this study, we investigate the peer effects of domestic migrant children and left-behind children on their classmates. Left-behind children are the children who are left in their hometown when their parents migrate. We exploit the large-scale random assignment of students into classes within schools in China to deal with the identification challenge due to the self-selection of students, which is rarely seen in other countries. Results show that an increase of ten percentage points in the proportion of left-behind peers and the proportion of migrant peers in the class results in a decrease of 0.12 and 0.06 standard deviations in a student's test score, respectively. However, the negative peer effects of left-behind peers are halved and the negative peer effects of migrant peers are totally erased in the second year. The reduction can be attributed to an improved class environment, such as students' relationships. Left-behind students' misbehavior due to the lack of parents' supervision may cause long-lasting damage and negative spillover. In addition, the indirect channel of family background of migrant and left-behind students explains only part of the peer effect. Relaxing the enrollment restriction of migrant students and encouraging migrant parents to take their children with them might reduce the overall negative spillovers.

Labor Demand During Covid-19: Evidence from Online Job Postings in China

with Qin Chen, Lisa Kahn and Geunyong Park (Draft coming soon)


Abstract: In this paper, we investigate the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on China's labor market using online job posting data. The data is scraped from job search websites and covers most of the online job postings in China. The results show that the number of online job postings declined by 40% at the beginning of the pandemic hit and bounced back quickly after February. The number of job postings returned to the level before the Covid-19 in May. After controlling for seasonality and year trend, we find that 1,000 new deaths is associated with 12%-36% decrease in the online job postings. The service and leisure sector experienced the largest losses and the public sector and the primary industries were hurt the least. High-end industries such as IT and finance are also less vulnerable to this negative shock. Occupations that are more feasible for working from home and with more non-rourine works, also suffer from the Covid-19 crisis as other occupations. This is the first study discussing the labor market in China during the Covid-19 crisis and gives the first picture of how China's labor demand reacts when hit by the pandemic.

Work In Progress

What Do Alibaba Data Tell Us about Price and Quality in China?

with Mark Bils, Min Fang and Tianchen Song (Granted by Alibaba Huoshui Research Plan)

Place-based Land Allocation Policy and Spatial Misallocation: Evidence from China

Min Fang, Libin Han, Ming Lu and  Li Zhang

Outsourcing of Jobs in Multinational Companies: Evidence from Online Job Postings in the U.S. and China

with Qin Chen, Lisa KahnLindsay Oldenski and Geunyong Park