Developing high-quality, in-depth data on firms and workers in China.
There is a lack of high-quality, in-depth data on firms and workers in China, which has historically prevented the systematic study of critical issues facing China’s manufacturers. Existing firm datasets contained limited information or lacked a representative sample of firms and workers. This has all changed with the recently-completed China Employer-Employee Survey, a collaborative effort led by Center Director Hongbin Li, and the most comprehensive survey of Chinese firms to date. The rich dataset stemming from this survey covers many questions that can be used to study trade, the role of State-Owned Enterprises, industry subsidies, and intellectual property rights protections, which have immediate and long-term value for researchers and policymakers alike. Specific focal areas include the role of robotic automation in Chinese factories, changes in manufacturing productivity over time, the prevalence of zombie firms in China, and the role of government interventions, management, and trade on industrial productivity.
China Employer-Employee Survey
The China Employer-Employee Survey led by Hongbin Li continues to provide academics and policymakers access to the most comprehensive survey of Chinese manufacturing firms and their employees, including published articles on managerial behavior, productivity of state-owned enterprises, and the rise of robots in China's manufacturing sector.
It is jointly initiated by researchers from Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Stanford University, Wuhan University, and the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
Video: The Story Behind the China Employer-Employee Survey
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Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS),
June 12, 2023
Significance One fundamental issue in economic, psychological, and social sciences is whether and how much income truly brings happiness. This paper draws on twins data to examine whether income indeed affects happiness and estimates the size of such an effect. We control for unobserved genetic factors that may impact both income and happiness using identical twins, address measurement error bias, and conduct a series of robustness checks. Income has a much larger effect than previous estimates: doubling income boosts the four-scale happiness value by 0.26 scales or 0.37 SDs. Heterogeneity analyses suggest that income matters most for males and the middle-aged. Our findings emphasize the importance of income maintenance for individuals’ well-being.
Abstract We estimate the causal effect of income on happiness using a unique dataset of Chinese twins. This allows us to address omitted variable bias and measurement errors. Our findings show that individual income has a large positive effect on happiness, with a doubling of income resulting in an increase of 0.26 scales or 0.37 SDs in the four-scale happiness measure. We also find that income matters most for males and the middle-aged. Our results highlight the importance of accounting for various biases when studying the relationship between socioeconomic status and subjective well-being.
We link industrial clusters, regional productivity and resource reallocation efficiency with geographical and sectoral disaggregated data. Based on a county-industry level panel from 1998 to 2007 in China, we find that industrial clusters significantly increase local industries' productivity by lifting the average firm productivity and reallocating resources from less to more productive firms. Moreover, we find major mechanisms through which resource reallocation is improved within clusters: (i) clusters are associated with a higher firm turnover with increased entry and exit rates simultaneously; and (ii) within clusters' environment, the dispersion of individual firm's markup is significantly reduced, indicating intensified local competition within clusters. Such results suggest that industrial clusters in China help improve regional productivity and resource allocation efficiency with intensified competition and accelerated firm dynamics. The identification issues are carefully addressed by two-stage estimations with instrumental variables and other robustness checks.
In each of the three waves of the Section 301 tariffs on Chinese imports, the US government exempted some products on the originally proposed list from additional duties. Using these exempted products as the counterfactual, we identify modest but heterogeneous impacts of the tariffs on the value of US imports from China. We find a complete pass-through for the first and second waves of tariffs. However, unlike in previous studies, we estimate a very limited tariff pass-through of the third wave of tariffs. Finally, we find little import diversion for the US and significant export diversion for China.
After nearly two decades of rising wages for those in the unskilled sectors of China's economy, in the mid-2010s employment and wages in China began to experience new polarizing trends. Using data from the National Bureau of Statistics of China, this paper examines trends in multiple sectors and subeconomies of China, revealing the substantial rise of employment in informal, low-skilled services as well as the steady decline of wage growth in the informal subeconomy. At the same time, we find that although employment growth in the formal subeconomy is relatively moderate, wage growth in high-skilled services is steadily rising. These two trends pose a challenge for China, presenting a new and uncertain period of economic change.
Journal of Comparative Economics,
November 24, 2022
This paper estimates the labor market impacts of parenthood in China. We find that becoming a mother has negative impacts on women's labor outcomes. But the impacts appear to recover sooner than what has been found in other countries. A decomposition exercise suggests that parenthood plays a limited role in explaining the large gender inequality in China's labor market. We document a form of intergenerational arrangement that is prevalent among Chinese families: Upon the arrival of a child, grandmothers substantially reduce market labor supply and provide much of the childcare. Grandparents’ help with childcare likely plays an important role in alleviating the motherhood effect. Suggestive evidence indicates that in return, grandparents who help with childcare receive more intra-family transfers and report higher subjective wellbeing. We further show that the motherhood effect, though relatively small, has increased substantially over the past decades. The rising gender gap in the labor market, the declining state sector that historically provides more flexible accommodations for working mothers, and the abolishment of the one-child policy all suggest a rising burden of motherhood on labor market outcomes.
China has witnessed rapid increases in the skill premium over the last few decades. In this paper, we study the short-run effect of capital goods imports on skill premium in China. The surge in capital goods imports, which embody advanced technology, can explain the rising demand for skill in China. We exploit regional variations in capital goods import exposure stemming from initial differences in import structure and instrument for the capital goods import growth using exchange rate movements. A city at the 75th percentile of the distribution of capital goods imports growth has a higher skill premium by 5 percentage points (0.38 standard deviation) over the one at the 25th percentile. To explore the underlying mechanism, we provide firm-level evidence and show that imported capital goods are skill-complementary.
National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER),
May 1, 2021
The theoretical literature has long noted that talent can be used in both the entrepreneurial and non-entrepreneurial sectors, and its allocation depends on the reward structure. We test these hypotheses by linking administrative college admissions data for 1.8 million individuals with the universe of firm registration records in China. Within a college, we find that individuals with higher college entrance exam scores – the most important measure of talent in this context – are less likely to create firms, but, when they do, their firms are more successful than those of their lower-score counterparts. Additional survey data suggest that higher-score individuals enjoy higher wages and are more likely to join the state sector. Moreover, the score-to-firm creation relationship varies greatly across industry, according to the size of the state sector. These findings suggest that the score is positively associated with both entrepreneurial ability and wage-job ability but higher-score individuals are attracted away by wage jobs, particularly those of the state sector.
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.
National Bureau of Economic Research,
February 1, 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.
National Bureau of Economic Research,
November 1, 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.