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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Understanding the Long Term Impacts of the Critical Historic Event: the Cultural Revolution in China

  • Author(s): Zhou, Dong
  • Advisor(s): Marks, Mindy S
  • et al.

This dissertation is to study the long-term impacts of the exposure to the Cultural Revolution in urban China. Following the literature on historic legacies, the first chapter provides a micro-analysis of the long-term impacts of a particular historical event: the Cultural Revolution in urban China. I use multiple datasets, construct indexes that measure the intensities of the impacts of the large-scale closure of schools as well as the forced migration, and evaluate the long-term impacts of exposure to the Cultural Revolution in urban China using synthetic cohort approach and multivariate models. Based on the theoretical framework of the life-cycle model, empirical evidence consistently shows that the Cultural Revolution produced a lasting negative effect on permanent income for the subjected birth cohorts (1946-1961) beginning in the 1990s, and this effect was amplified by around 25% to 45% from the mid-1990s to the early 2000s as the Chinese market economy increasingly evolved. Based on the approach of sequential covariate addition, evidence show that the mechanism of the impact includes channels of productivity determinants (e.g., educational attainment, work experience and health conditions), marriage, and attitudes toward the determinants of success. Interestingly, it is found that the Send-Down Movement has played a positive role in the channel of attitude which contributes to individual's annual income. These conclusions are shown to be robust to contemporaneous as well as cross-regional comparisons, and placebo tests with samples of rural-urban migrants and permanent rural residents. Also the results are robust to a variety of controls for family background, exposure to the Great Famine and various model specifications.

The second chapter is to study the spill-over effects of the exposure to the Cultural Revolution onto their next generation. Specifically, it exploits the closure of senior secondary school in China to study the intergenerational transmission of human capital using Difference-in-Difference and Instruments Variables (IV) estimations. The closure of senior secondary schools from 1966 to 1971 in China gave rise to exogenous variations in parental educational attainment both over time and across city and town residential which are not correlated with the hereditory factors and make testing the existence of causality rather than pure selection possible. Using large Census data, the estimation results consistently show that there are statistically significant causal effects from parents to children. The results also imply stronger effects of intergenerational transmission from parents to daughters. These findings are robust to examinations within different treatment and control groups, different identification strategy and different model specification.

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