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Human Capital and the Middle Income Trap: How Many of China's Youth Are Going to High School?

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The Developing Economies, Vol. 56

June 2018

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The objective of this paper is to assess the nature of China’s human capital. To achieve our objective, we both measure the share of the labor force that has attained upper secondary schooling levels (high school) as well as examine recent trends of 15–17 year olds who are attending high school. Using two sets of national representative data, we are able to show that, while the human capital of China’s labor force is still low (30%), between 2005 and 2015 the share of rural youth who attended high school rose sharply. According to Ministry of Education–reported statistics, in 2015 87% of 15–17 year olds were attending high school, up from around 50% in 2005. Given the recent pronouncements of the government to make high school universal by 2020, the challenges for the education system are to increase the attendance of rural as well as vocational education and training students.

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