Was China's Send-down Movement Really a Blessing for Rural Education and Economic Development?


ShanghaiTech SEM Working Paper No. 2020-012

 Guan Gong

Shanghai University of Finance and Economics, IASFE at Hubei University of Economics

Gordon G. Liu

National School of Development, Peking University

Ding Lu

School of Entrepreneurship and Management, ShanghaiTech University

Jame G. Wen

Trinity College

Huizhong Zhou

Western Michigan University  

Chen et al. (2020) claim to have found a positive causal effect of the send-down movement on rural education during China’s Cultural Revolution. The paper also infers that the movement made the contribution of human capital accumulation in rural areas to China's subsequent economic growth in reform era. We demonstrate that the claimed finding and its inference can be challenged on both factual and methodological grounds. In particular, once the educational attainment is coded by actual schooling-year requirements set during the Cultural Revolution, the estimated effects of send-down youths on rural education become negative and statistically insignificant. We also question the authors’ choice to only consider marginal gains in rural schooling without assessing the trade-off of the much larger losses in human capital and social economic costs of the movement.

Date Written: December, 2021

Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3750613

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