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Journal Article

Publishing and Assessing the Research of Economists: Lessons from Public Health

Sean Sylvia, Scott Rozelle
2021
We highlight a growing concern in the economics profession that young scholars face incentives that are misaligned with conducting research that furthers knowledge and addresses pressing policy problems. The premium given to publication in top journals leads to an emphasis on exhaustive treatment of narrow questions. Detailed, robustly identified studies of novel questions are of undeniable value; however, the opportunity cost of producing such studies is large in terms of research quantity and policy relevance. For economists who aim to achieve what we view as the ultimate goals of academic research (enhancing understanding of the world, solving social problems, and building foundational knowledge to enable future breakthroughs), we offer some insights from publication philosophy in the field of public health. We discuss how public health has developed norms around publishing that are more successful in meeting these ultimate goals. We then offer thoughts on potential lessons for young economists in China and the economics discipline.
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Policy Brief

Tracking China's Economic Path

Hongbin Li, Scott Rozelle
2021
Stanford scholars are setting and expanding research agendas to analyze China’s economic development and its impact on the world. The newly launched Stanford Center on China’s Economy and Institutions — co-directed by SIEPR senior fellows Hongbin Li and Scott Rozelle — is supporting their work. In this SIEPR Policy Brief, Li and Rozelle outline the research underway by the new center's affiliates.
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Journal Article

Variations in the Home Language Environment and Early Language Development in Rural China

Yue Ma, Laura Jonsson, Tianli Feng, Tyler Weisberg, Teresa Shao, Zixin Yao, Dongming Zhang, Sarah-Eve Dill, Yian Guo, Yue Zhang, Dimitris Friesen, Scott Rozelle
International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health , 2021
The home language environment is critical to early language development and subsequent skills. However, few studies have quantitatively measured the home language environment in low-income, developing settings. This study explores variations in the home language environment and child language skills among households in poor rural villages in northwestern China. Audio recordings were collected for 38 children aged 20–28 months and analyzed using Language Environment Analysis (LENA) software; language skills were measured using the MacArthur–Bates Mandarin Communicative Developmental Inventories expressive vocabulary scale. The results revealed large variability in both child language skills and home language environment measures (adult words, conversational turns, and child vocalizations) with 5- to 6-fold differences between the highest and lowest scores. Despite variation, however, the average number of adult words and conversational turns were lower than found among urban Chinese children. Correlation analyses did not identify significant correlations between demographic characteristics and the home language environment. However, the results do indicate significant correlations between the home language environment and child language skills, with conversational turns showing the strongest correlation. The results point to a need for further research on language engagement and ways to increase parent–child interactions to improve early language development among young children in rural China.
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Journal Article

Skill Levels and Gains in University STEM Education in China, India, Russia, and the United States

Prashant Loyalka, Ou Lydia Liu, Guirong Li, Elena Kardanova, Igor Chirikov, Shangfeng Hu, Ningning Yu, Liping Ma, Fei Guo, Tara Beteille, Namrata Tognatta, Lin Gu, Guangming Ling, Denis Federiakin, Huan Wang, Saurabh Khanna, Ashutosh Bhuradia, Zhaolei Shi, Yanyan Li
Nature Human Behavior , 2021
Universities contribute to economic growth and national competitiveness by equipping students with higher-order thinking and academic skills. Despite large investments in university science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education, little is known about how the skills of STEM undergraduates compare across countries and by institutional selectivity. Here, we provide direct evidence on these issues by collecting and analysing longitudinal data on tens of thousands of computer science and electrical engineering students in China, India, Russia and the United States. We find stark differences in skill levels and gains among countries and by institutional selectivity. Compared with the United States, students in China, India and Russia do not gain critical thinking skills over four years. Furthermore, while students in India and Russia gain academic skills during the first two years, students in China do not. These gaps in skill levels and gains provide insights into the global competitiveness of STEM university students across nations and institutional types.
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Journal Article

It All Starts at Home: 'Home Reading Environment and Reading Outcomes in Rural China'

Quifeng Gao, Yang Zhang, Wei Nie, Han Liu, Huan Wang, Yaojiang Shi
Journal of Research in Reading , 2021
Background: The educational resources that parents provide at home are crucial to their children’s development. In this study, we focused on home reading environment, a key contributor to success rates regarding the mastery of reading skills. We aimed to investigate students’ home reading environments and examine its effect on the reading development of primary school students in rural China. Methods: We draw on a dataset composed of 10,740 randomly selected primary school students and their households in rural areas of Jiangxi province in China. Surveys were administered by trained enumerators in May 2015. Results: The results show that students exhibited quite poor reading environments and reading outcomes. Specifically, we found the majority of the rural students lacked reading and learning resources in the context of their families and their parents did not enjoy reading or support their children’s reading. Moreover, our regression analysis documented students with poorer home reading environments are more likely to have worse reading performance. Conclusion: Our study supports the significance of the home reading environment in the reading development of students in the upper elementary grades in rural China. Furthermore, the results suggest that the home reading environments of rural Chinese students must be improved.
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Journal Article

Improving Learning by Improving Vision: Evidence from Two Randomized Controlled Trials of Providing Vision Care in China

Xiaochen Ma, Huan Wang, Yaojiang Shi, Sean Sylvia, Lei Wang, Yiwei Qian, Scott Rozelle
Journal of Development Effectiveness , 2021
This paper examines the external validity of health intervention by comparing the impacts of providing free eyeglasses on the educational performance of nearsighted children in two settings: rural public schools in Western China and urban private migrant schools in Eastern China. The intervention significantly improves educational outcomes by 0.14 standard deviations in math in rural public schools but not in private migrant schools. The difference in measured impacts is due in part to lower quality schooling in migrant schools in Eastern China. Our findings show that only when school is providing a quality education, health interventions might increase student learnings.
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Journal Article

The Impact of Internet Use on Adolescent Learning Outcomes: Evidence from Rural China

Lili Li, Yue Ma, Dimitris Friesen, Zhonggen Zhang, Songqing Jin, Scott Rozelle
China Agricultural Economic Review , 2021
Purpose: Internet use has become particularly prevalent among adolescents, prompting much thought and concern about both its potential benefits and adverse effects on adolescent learning outcomes. Much of the empirical literature on the impact of Internet use on adolescent learning outcomes is mixed, and few studies examine the causal relationship between the two in rural China. In order to bridge these gaps, we use empirical analysis to investigate the effect of Internet use on the learning outcomes of adolescents in rural China. Design/methodology/approach: We use fixed effect models with samples drawn from a large nationally representative dataset (the China Family Panel Studies—CFPS) to identify the causal impacts of Internet use on the learning outcomes of three cohorts (Cohort A (N = 540), Cohort B (N = 287) and Cohort C (N = 827)) of adolescents in rural China. Findings: The results of the descriptive analysis show a continued increase in the number of adolescents accessing the Internet and the amount of time they spend online. The results of the fixed effect models show that Internet use has positive (in many of the analyses), but mostly insignificant impacts, on the learning outcomes of adolescents. In the sets of results that find significant associations between Internet use and learning outcomes, the measured effects are moderate. Originality/value: This study investigates the causal relationship between Internet use and adolescent learning outcomes in rural China. The findings claim that there is not a great need to worry about adverse effects of Internet use on adolescent learning development. Attention, however, should focus on seeking ways to improve the positive effects of the Internet use on adolescent learning outcomes. The study will provide a reference and experience for the development of education and the Internet in rural areas and promote the integrated development of urban and rural areas in China.
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Journal Article

Early Childhood Reading in Rural China and Obstacles to Caregiver Investment in Young Children: A Mixed-Methods Analysis

Rui Li, Nathan Rose, Yi Ming Zheng, Yunwei Chen, Sean Sylvia, Henry Wilson-Smith, Alexis Medina, Sarah-Eve Dill, Scott Rozelle
International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health , 2021
Studies have shown that nearly half of rural toddlers in China have cognitive delays due to an absence of stimulating parenting practices, such as early childhood reading, during the critical first three years of life. However, few studies have examined the reasons behind these low levels of stimulating parenting, and no studies have sought to identify the factors that limit caregivers from providing effective early childhood reading practices (EECRP). This mixed-methods study investigates the perceptions, prevalence, and correlates of EECRP in rural China, as well as associations with child cognitive development. We use quantitative survey results from 1748 caregiver–child dyads across 100 rural villages/townships in northwestern China and field observation and interview data with 60 caregivers from these same sites. The quantitative results show significantly low rates of EECRP despite positive perceptions of early reading and positive associations between EECRP and cognitive development. The qualitative results suggest that low rates of EECRP in rural China are not due to the inability to access books, financial or time constraints, or the absence of aspirations. Rather, the low rate of book ownership and absence of reading to young children is driven by the insufficient and inaccurate knowledge of EECRP among caregivers, which leads to their delayed, misinformed reading decisions with their young children, ultimately contributing to developmental delays.
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Working Paper

Just Above the Exam Cutoff Score: Elite College Admission and Wages in China

Ruixue Jia, Hongbin Li
National Bureau of Economic Research , 2021
A burgeoning literature has documented the importance of elite colleges. Yet, little is known about access to elite education and its labor market implications in China, a country that produces one in every five college graduates in the world. College admission in China is governed by a single exam—the national college entrance exam, and the government sets admission cutoff scores for elite colleges. We examine the impacts of scoring above the elite-tier cutoff on a student's access to elite colleges and wage outcomes after graduation, using the discontinuity around the cutoff score. By employing hand-collected survey data, we find that scoring above the cutoff not only increases the chance of entering an elite college but also raises a young person's first-job wages after graduation. We also find that those just above the cutoff have peers with higher scores and better social networks than those below the cutoff, but it is less clear whether the two groups use their time differently in college.
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Journal Article

Publishing and Assessing the Research of Economists: Lessons from Public Health

Sean Sylvia, Scott Rozelle
China Economic Review , 2021
We highlight a growing concern in the economics profession that young scholars face incentives that are misaligned with conducting research that furthers knowledge and addresses pressing policy problems. The premium given to publication in top journals leads to an emphasis on exhaustive treatment of narrow questions. Detailed, robustly identified studies of novel questions are of undeniable value; however, the opportunity cost of producing such studies is large in terms of research quantity and policy relevance. For economists who aim to achieve what we view as the ultimate goals of academic research (enhancing understanding of the world, solving social problems, and building foundational knowledge to enable future breakthroughs), we offer some insights from publication philosophy in the field of public health. We discuss how public health has developed norms around publishing that are more successful in meeting these ultimate goals. We then offer thoughts on potential lessons for young economists in China and the economics discipline.
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Journal Article

Tracking the Effects of COVID-19 in Rural China Over Time

Huan Wang, Markus Zhang, Robin Li, Oliver Zhong, Hannah Johnstone, Huan Zhou, Hao Xue, Sean Sylvia, Matthew Boswell, Prashant Loyalka, Scott Rozelle
International Journal for Equity in Health , 2021
Background: China issued strict nationwide guidelines to combat the COVID-19 outbreak in January 2020 and gradually loosened the restrictions on movement in early March. Little is known about how these disease control measures affected the 600 million people who live in rural China. The goal of this paper is to document the quarantine measures implemented in rural China outside the epicenter of Hubei Province and to assess the socioeconomic effect of the measures on rural communities over time. Methods: We conducted three rounds of interviews with informants from 726 villages in seven provinces, accounting for over 25% of China’s overall rural population. The survey collected data on rural quarantine implementation; COVID-19 infections and deaths in the survey villages; and effects of the quarantine on employment, income, education, health care, and government policies to address any negative impacts. The empirical findings of the work established that strict quarantine measures were implemented in rural villages throughout China in February. Results: There was little spread of COVID-19 in rural communities: an infection rate of 0.001% and zero deaths reported in our sample. However, there were negative social and economic outcomes, including high rates of unemployment, falling household income, rising prices, and disrupted student learning. Health care was generally accessible, but many delayed their non-COVID-19 health care due to the quarantine measures. Only 20% of villagers received any form of local government aid, and only 11% of villages received financial subsidies. There were no reports of national government aid programs that targeted rural villagers in the sample areas. Conclusions: By examining the economic and social effects of the COVID-19 restrictions in rural communities, this study will help to guide other middle- and low-income countries in their containment and restorative processes. Without consideration for economically vulnerable populations, economic hardships and poverty will likely continue to have a negative impact on the most susceptible communities.
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Journal Article

Rural Minimum Living Standard Guarantee (Rural Dibao) Program Boosts Children's Education Outcomes in Rural China

Zixuan He, Xiangming Fang, Nathan Rose, Xiaodong Zheng, Scott Rozelle
China Agricultural Economic Review , 2021

Purpose: To combat poverty in China's rural areas, Chinese government has established an unconditional cash transfer program known as the Rural Minimum Living Standard Guarantee (Rural Dibao) Program. Interestingly, despite the importance of education in breaking cycles of poverty, little is known about Rural Dibao's impact on rural children's education.

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Journal Article

The Performance of State-Owned Enterprises: New Evidence from the China Employer-Employee Survey

Hong Cheng, Hongbin Li, Tang Li
Economic Development and Cultural Change , 2021
Drawing on data from a random sample of manufacturing firms collected in 2016 for the China Employer-Employee Survey (CEES), we examine differences in measures of productivity and financial returns between state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and private firms in China. The summary statistics show that labor productivity and total factor productivity are generally higher at SOEs than at private firms, but the productivity advantage of SOEs can mostly be explained by the higher levels of human capital of their workers, greater market power, and better management. Furthermore, SOEs’ advantage in productivity exists only in industries with higher SOE concentrations. In contrast, measures of financial returns—return on assets and return on equity—are lower for SOEs than for private firms. We believe that these results may reflect the fact that SOEs generally have easier access to capital, human capital, and markets than other types of firms in China.
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Journal Article

IQ, Grit, and Academic Achievement: Evidence from Rural China

Xinyue He, Huan Wang, Fang Chang, Sarah-Eve Dill, Han Liu, Bin Tang, Yaojiang Shi
International Journal of Educational Development , 2021
Promoting an educated labor force is critical for emerging economies. Educational achievement, in turn, depends heavily on general cognitive abilities as well as non-cognitive skills, such as grit. Current research, however, has not examined how cognition and grit may explain the academic performance of students in an economically disadvantaged context. Thus, this study examines how IQ and grit contribute to academic achievement gains for students in poor areas of rural China. Drawing on data from 2931 students in rural China, we measure general cognitive ability, using the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children, Fourth Edition (WISC-IV) and Raven’s Standard Progressive Matrices (Raven IQ); non-cognitive ability, using the Short Grit Scale; and academic achievement, using a curricular-based mathematics exam. We find that IQ and grit each predict achievement gains for the average student. Grit is not positively associated with achievement gains among low-IQ students, however, suggesting that grit does not translate into academic achievement gains for students with delays in general cognitive ability.
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Journal Article

Cognitive Ability and Academic Performance Among Left-Behind Children: Evidence from Rural China

Xinyue He, Huan Wang, Dimitris Friesen, Yaojiang Shi, Fang Chang, Han Liu
Compare: A Journal of Comparative and International Education , 2020
Little attention has been paid to the role that low levels of cognitive development (or IQ) play among both left-behind children (LBCs) and children living with parents (CLPs) in the context of poor educational attainment in rural China. In this paper, we examine how general cognitive abilities contribute to the academic achievement gains of both LBCs and CLPs in poor areas of rural China. We measure the general cognitive ability of the 4,780 sample students using the Raven’s Standard Progressive Matrices (Raven IQ) and assess academic achievement using a curriculum-based mathematics exam. We find that IQ and left-behind status predict achievement gains for the average student. Among low-IQ students, however, left-behind status does not correlate with a change in achievement, suggesting that the migration of parents does not immediately/automatically translate into a loss of academic achievement for students with delays in their general cognitive ability.
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Journal Article

The Impact of Online Computer Assisted Learning at Home for Disadvantaged Children in Taiwan: Evidence from a Randomized Experiment

Bin Tang, Te-Tien Ting, Chyi-In Wu, Yue Ma, Di Mo, Wei-Ting Hung, Scott Rozelle
Sustainability , 2020
In Taiwan, thousands of students from Yuanzhumin (aboriginal) families lag far behind their Han counterparts in academic achievement. When they fall behind, they often have no way to catch up. There is increased interest among both educators and policymakers in helping underperforming students catch up using computer-assisted learning (CAL). The objective of this paper is to examine the impact of an intervention aimed at raising the academic performance of students using an in-home CAL program. According to intention-to-treat estimates, in-home CAL improved the overall math scores of students in the treatment group relative to the control group by 0.08 to 0.20 standard deviations (depending on whether the treatment was for one or two semesters). Furthermore, Average Treatment Effect on the Treated analysis was used for solving the compliance problem in our experiment, showing that in-home CAL raised academic performance by 0.36 standard deviations among compliers. This study thus presents preliminary evidence that an in-home CAL program has the potential to boost the learning outcomes of disadvantaged students.
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Journal Article

The Impacts of Highly Resourced Vocational Schools on Student Outcomes in China

Guirong Li, Jiajia Xu, Liying Li, Zhaolei Shi, Hongmei Yi, James Chu, Elena Kardanova, Yanyan Li, Prashant Loyalka, Scott Rozelle
China & World Economy , 2020
Policymakers in developing countries have prioritized the mass expansion of vocational education and training (VET). Evidence suggests, however, that the quality of VET can be poor. One possible reason given by policymakers for this is a lack of resources per student. The goal of this study is to examine whether the quality of VET in developing countries increases by investing greater resources per student. To achieve this goal, we examine the impacts of attending model schools (which have far more resources per student) compared with non-model schools (which have fewer resources) on a range of student cognitive, non-cognitive, and behavioral outcomes. Using representative data from a survey of approximately 12,000 VET students from China, multivariate regression and propensity score matching analyses show that there are no significant benefits, in terms of student outcomes, from attending model vocational high schools, despite their substantially greater resources.
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Journal Article

Maternal Health Behaviors During Pregnancy in Rural Northwestern China

Yue Ma, Yujuan Gao, Jason Li, Andrew Sun, Baozhu Wang, Jun Zhang, Sarah-Eve Dill, Alexis Medina, Scott Rozelle
BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth , 2020
Background: Maternal health during pregnancy is a key input in fetal health and child development. This study aims to systematically describe the health behaviors of pregnant women in rural China and identify which subgroups of women are more likely to engage in unhealthy behaviors during pregnancy.
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Journal Article

The Status Quo of Teaching Reading Skills in Rural Primary Schools in China: PIRLS Questionnaires in Guizhou and Jiangxi

Miqi Jia, Qiufeng Gao, Lanxi Peng, Jingchun Nie, Huan Wang, Qian Zhou
Journal of East China Normal University , 2020
早期阅读能力的健康发展有利于提高小学生的学业成绩并改善其长期教育表现。本研究从 学校和教师的角度探究我国农村小学阅读教学现状,为促进农村学生早期阅读发展奠定基础。基于贵 州、江西150 所农村小学调查数据,通过国际比较发现,现阶段我国农村小学阅读教学仍存在教师学历 水平相对较低、阅读培训时间较短、阅读教学基础教材单一、学校培养学生阅读技能时间较晚等不足。 回归结果发现,农村小学阅读教学与学生阅读成绩存在显著正相关关系;教师学历与其参加阅读培训时 长对农村小学生阅读成绩的提高尤为重要。学校应加强教师阅读培训的力度,丰富阅读教学资源,优化 学校阅读环境。
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Journal Article

Effects of Baby-Friendly Practices on Breastfeeding Duration in China: A Case-Control Study

Yue Zhang, Jinliuxing Yang, Wenhao Li, Nianrong Wang, Ya Ye, Shuangqin Yan, Sumei Wang, Ting Zeng, Zijuan Huang, Fenghua Zhang, Yin Li, Shiyi Yao, Haijun Wang, Scott Rozelle, Tao Xu, Xi Jin
International Breastfeeding Journal , 2020
Background:  The Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative is generally considered an effective way to promote breastfeeding. Although China has the largest number of baby-friendly hospitals in the world, research on baby-friendly practices in China is limited, and the rate of exclusive breastfeeding (EBF) at 6 months, 20.7%, compared to the 2025 global goal of 50% is low. It is, therefore, important to determine the factors that remain significant barriers to EBF in China. To explore how the key baby-friendly practices affect EBF duration in China, we used a case-control study to compare the effects of baby-friendly-related practices on both EBF and non-breastfeeding (NBF) mothers at 3 months and to investigate the effects of both single and comprehensive baby-friendly practices in promoting EBF duration at 3 months, which is one step toward EBF at 6 months. Methods:  Participants were recruited from four maternal and child health hospitals in western (Chongqing), eastern (Qingdao), southern (Liuzhou), and central China (Maanshan). A total of 421 mothers (245 in the EBF group, 176 in the NBF group) of infants aged 3 months were surveyed through a self-reported questionnaire from April 2018 to March 2019. The experience of baby-friendly practices and breastfeeding during hospitalization were assessed with yes/no questions. Socio-demographic factors that influenced breastfeeding at 3 months were analyzed using bivariate and multivariate logistic regression analyses. Results:  Of mothers in the EBF group, 65.57% reported engaging in at least seven baby-friendly practices compared to 47.72% of mothers in the NBF group. Significantly more mothers in the EBF group engaged in baby-friendly practices than in the NBF group. These practices included “breastfeeding within one hour after birth” (74.29% vs. 59.09%), “breastfeeding on demand” (86.48% vs. 75.00%), and “never use a pacifier” (46.53% vs. 31.25%). After adjusting for confounding variables, we found that the mothers who engaged in fewer than seven baby-friendly practices were about 1.7 times less likely to breastfeed than were those who engaged in seven or more baby-friendly practices (odds ratio [OR] 1.720, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.106, 2.667). Further, the mothers who did not breastfeed on demand were as likely to not breastfeed up to 3 months (OR 2.263, 95% CI 1.265, 4.049), as were mothers who did not breastfeed during hospitalization (OR 4.379, 95% CI 1.815, 10.563). Conclusions:  These data from hospitals in China suggest that higher compliance with baby-friendly practices may have a positive impact on EBF at 3 months, particularly in terms of promoting the implementation of breastfeeding on demand and breastfeeding during hospitalization in China.
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Working Paper

Pandemics, Global Supply Chains, and Local Labor Demand: Evidence from 100 Million Posted Jobs in China

Hanming Fang, Chunmian Ge, Hanwei Huang, Hongbin Li
National Bureau of Economic Research , 2020
This paper studies how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected labor demand using over 100 million posted jobs on one of the largest online platforms in China. Our data reveals that, due to the effects of the pandemic both in China and abroad, the number of newly posted jobs within the first 13 weeks after the Wuhan lockdown on January 23, 2020 was about one third lower than that of the same lunar calendar weeks in 2018 and 2019. Using econometric methods, we show that, via the global supply chain, COVID-19 cases abroad and in particular pandemic-control policies by foreign governments reduced new job creations in China by 11.7%. We also find that Chinese firms most exposed to international trade outperformed other firms at the beginning of the pandemic but underperformed during recovery as the Novel Coronavirus spread throughout the world.
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Journal Article

Examining Mode Effects for an Adapted Chinese Critical Thinking Assessment

Lin Gu, Guangming Ling, Ou Lydia Liu, Zhitong Yang, Guirong Li, Elena Kardanova, Prashant Loyalka
Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education , 2020
We examine the effects of computer-based versus paper-based assessment of critical thinking skills, adapted from English (in the U.S.) to Chinese. Using data collected based on a random assignment between the two modes in multiple Chinese colleges, we investigate mode effects from multiple perspectives: mean scores, measurement precision, item functioning (i.e. item difficulty and discrimination), response behavior (i.e. test completion and item omission), and user perceptions. Our findings shed light on assessment and item properties that could be the sources of mode effects. At the test level, we find that the computer-based test is more difficult and more speeded than the paper-based test. We speculate that these differences are attributable to the test’s structure, its high demands on reading, and test-taking flexibility afforded under the paper testing mode. Item-level evaluation allows us to identify item characteristics that are prone to mode effects, including targeted cognitive skill, response type, and the amount of adaptation between modes. Implications for test design are discussed, and actionable design suggestions are offered with the goal of minimizing mode effect.
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Journal Article

Moving Beyond Lewis: Employment and Wage Trends in China’s High- and Low-Skilled Industries and the Emergence of an Era of Polarization

Scott Rozelle, Yiran Xia, Dimitris Friesen, Bronson Vanderjack, Nourya Cohen
Comparative Economic Studies , 2020
One of the defining features of China’s economy over the two decades between 1995 and 2015 was the persistent rise of wages for workers and professionals in nearly every segment of the economy—with wage rates for labor-intensive jobs in manufacturing, construction, and the informal service sector rising the fastest. Recently, however, the economic environment in China has begun to change, including changes in both employment and wages. We identify recent employment/wage trends throughout China’s economy and postulate the sources of these trends as well as possible future consequences if they continue. We use official, nationally aggregated data to examine employment and wages in multiple sectors and industries. Our findings indicate that China may have entered a new phase of economic development in the mid-2010s. According to the data, in recent years, wage growth has begun to polarize: Rising for professionals employed in formal skill-intensive industries; and falling for workers in the informal labor-intensive service sector. We attribute this increase in skill-intensive wages to an increase in demand for skill-intensive employment, due to the emergence of a large middle class in China, for whom the demand for high technology, finance, banking, health, and higher education industries is increasing while, at least in the recent short term, the supply of experienced, high-skilled professionals has not kept up. The employment/wage trend in the informal (low-wage) service sector, however, is following a different pattern. While there is a rising demand for services in China’s economy, the growth, due to a number of factors (e.g., large shares of GDP targeted by policymakers to investment; high rates of savings by consumers), is relatively slow. In contrast, due to a number of economic forces, including globalization and automation, the supply of labor into the service sector of the informal economy is being fueled by the flow of labor out of manufacturing and construction (two industries that that have experienced employment declines since 2013). These supply and demand trends, in turn, are leading to the fall in the growth rate of wages in the informal service sector. We conclude by discussing the possible longer-term consequences of these emerging polarization trends based on an examination of recent experience with wage polarization occurring in both middle- and high-income countries, as well as its consequences. We also present policy recommendations for greater investment in education and human capital, as well as for the development of a more comprehensive set of social safety nets for different segments of China’s population.
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Working Paper

Off the Epicenter: COVID-19 Quarantine Controls and Employment, Education, and Health Impacts in Rural Communities

Huan Wang, Sarah-Eve Dill, Huan Zhou, Yue Ma, Hao Xue, Prashant Loyalka, Sean Sylvia, Matthew Boswell, Jason Lin, Scott Rozelle
2020

In late January 2020, China’s government initiated its first aggressive measures to combat COVID-19 by forbidding individuals from leaving their homes, radically limiting public transportation, cancelling or postponing large public events, and closing schools across the country. The rollout of these measures coincided with China’s Lunar New Year holiday, during which more than 280 million people had returned from their places of work to their home villages in rural areas. The disease control policies remained in place until late February and early March, when they were gradually loosened to

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Journal Article

Visual Impairment in Rural and Migrant Chinese School-Going Children: Prevalence, Severity, Correction and Association

Yue Ma, Xinwu Zhang, Fei He, Xiaochen Ma, Hongmei Yi, Nathan Rose, Alexis Medina, Scott Rozelle, Nathan Congdon
BMJ Ophthalmology , 2020
Purpose To describe changes in the prevalence of visual impairment and glasses ownership with age and as associated with income and population density for visual impairment among rural and urban migrant Chinese students. Design Meta-analysis of 12 cross-sectional, school-based studies conducted between 2012 and 2017. Setting Rural and urban migrant schools in seven Chinese provinces. Participants A total of 83 273 rural and urban migrant Chinese students aged 6–17 years. Results Prevalence of visual impairment (uncorrected visual acuity ≤6/12 in either eye) rose from 19.0% at age 6 to 66.9% at 17, with the overall age-adjusted prevalence higher for girls (35.8%) than for boys (30.1%, p
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