This paper uses the largest plague in the 20th century and the Great Pandemic as natural experiments to test the fetal origin hypothesis. The plague arrived in northeast China unexpectedly in October 1910 and largely subsided by March 1911, killing over 60 thousand people. The results indicate that women exposed to the plague in-utero displayed worse health, lower cognition, higher depression, and poorer life quality. In addition, they also presented lower literacy, lower spousal education, fewer children, lower household income, receiving less transfer from children, and expending less on medical care. I do not find robust evidence for men or for the effects of the plague at ages 1-5. In contrast, using the deaths caused by the 1918 Influenza Pandemic across countries, I find that experiencing the flu both at birth and during early childhood leads to significantly higher mortality in later life. Since the plague infection lead to death for sure while the flu did not, these results deepen our understanding the impacts on the life course of early childhood experiences and help to reconcile the conflicting findings in the literature.
This paper examines the impacts of social pension provision among people of different ages. Utilizing the county-by-county rollout of the New Rural Pension Scheme in rural China, we find that, among the age-eligible people, the scheme provision leads to higher household income (18 percent) and food expenditure (10 percent), lower labor supply (6 percent), and better health (11-14 percent). In addition, among the age-ineligible adults, the pension scheme shifts them from farming to non-farming work, lowers insurance participation rate, but does not change income, expenditure or health significantly. Finally, among the children aged below 15, the pension scheme leads to more pocket money received, more caring from grandparents, improved health, and higher schooling rate. (JEL classifications: E21, H55, I38, O22)
Using temporal and geographical variation in the implementation of compulsory schooling laws (CSLs) in China, I show that education significantly reduces the rates of reported fair or poor health, underweight, and smoking, and enhances cognition. Furthermore, the cognition and income only explain 15 percent and 7 percent of the impact of the CSLs on self-reported health. Suggestive evidence shows that spillovers from increased education of other people in the local region could explain over 25 percent. (JEL classification: I12, I21, I28)
This paper studies the marriage distortion and the associated welfare loss caused by the One-Child Policy (OCP) in China. Using the variation in the ethnicity-specific assigned birth quotas and different fertility penalties across provinces over time, we first show that the OCP induced a significantly higher unmarried rate and more interethnic marriages. Using the sufficient statistics approach, we derive a formula for the social welfare loss caused by the OCP-induced lower fertility and marriage distortion, and it only depends on the estimated reduced-form elasticities. Our estimates imply that the welfare loss caused by lowered fertility and marriage distortion is 2.6 and 1.1 percent of annual household income, respectively. (JEL codes: I31, J12, J13, J18)
Keywords: One-Child Policy, Marriage Distortion, Welfare Loss
Individuals may have imperfect information about their health status, leading to suboptimal decisions in insurance participation. Using nationally representative samples of the elderly in US and China, we find that people with lower socio-economic status and poorer health are relatively less likely to realize how unhealthy they are and this overconfidence is associated with no insurance participation. Further analysis suggests that insurance participation may not induce more accurate recognition in health status yet physical examination with updated health information provided will induce higher insurance participation among the overconfident people afterwards. These findings help to answer the two puzzles in health insurance participation - insufficient participation and advantageous selection. (JEL codes: I12, I13, J14)
Keywords: Overconfidence, Health, Health Insurance Participation
Using data covering over 100 birth-cohorts in 32 countries, we examine the short- and long-term effects of economic conditions on mortality. We find that small, but not large, economic booms increase contemporary mortality. Yet booms from birth to age 25, particularly those during adolescence, lower adult mortality. A simple model can rationalize these findings if economic conditions differentially affect the level and trajectory of both good and bad inputs into health. Indeed, air pollution and alcohol consumption increase in booms. In contrast, booms in adolescence raise adult incomes and improve social relations and mental health, suggesting these mechanisms dominate in the long run. (JEL Codes: H51, I10, I38, N10).
Chinese housing prices rose by over 10 percent per year in real terms between 2003 and 2014, and are now between two and ten times higher than the construction cost of apartments. At the same time, Chinese developers built 100 billion square feet of residential real estate. This boom has been accompanied by a large increase in the number of vacant homes, held by both developers and households. This boom may turn out to be a housing bubble followed by a crash, yet that future is far from certain. The demand for real estate in China is so strong that current prices might be sustainable, especially given the sparse alternative investments for Chinese households, so long as the level of new supply is radically curtailed. Whether that happens depends on the policies of the Chinese government, which must weigh the benefits of price stability against the costs of restricting urban growth.
This paper examines an unintended response to the One-Child Policy in China: twinning births. Analysis of population census data shows that the One-Child Policy has accounted for more than one-third of the increase in the reported births of twins since the 1970s. Investigation using birth space with prior births and height difference within twins suggests that the increase in births of twins is partly due to parents reporting regularly-spaced children as twins to avoid the policy violation punishment. The study highlights the possibility of individual behavioral response to undesirable government policies and the potential social consequences.
This study examines the ethnic identify of the co-authors of over 1.2 million papers with US addresses from 1985 to 2008. It finds a striking change in the ethnic composition of authors, with the proportion with English and European names falling while the proportion of names from China and other developing countries increases. The greater variety of ethnicity is associated with considerable homophily among research teams, as persons of similar ethnicity tend to work together far more frequently than can be explained by chance. The paper identifies a modest negative relation between homophily and the potential scientific contribution of the papers as measured by the impact factor of journals of publication and the number of citations, with the latter attributable to the previous publishing performance of authors. Using a Markov analysis to calculate a steady state rate of homophily, the paper finds that the rates is close to the steady state and thus likely to continue at high levels into the future. The analysis also finds that papers written by authors at different addresses and that cite larger numbers of references are more likely to get into high impact journals and to gain more citations than other papers.
Using a sample of US-based scientific journal articles, I examine the relationship between author surname initials and paper citations, finding that the papers with first authors whose surname initials appear earlier in the alphabet get more citations, and that this effect does not exist for non-first authors. Further analysis shows that the alphabetical order effect is stronger in those fields with longer reference lists, and that such alphabetical bias exists among citations by others and not for self-citations. In addition, estimates also reveal that the alphabetical order effect is stronger when the length of reference lists in citing papers is longer. These findings suggest that the order in reference lists plays an important role in the alphabetical bias.
Using Eurobarometer data, we document large variation across European countries in education gradients in income, self-reported health, life satisfaction, obesity, smoking and drinking. While this variation has been documented previously, the reasons why the effect of education on income, health and health behaviors varies is not well understood. We build on previous literature documenting that cohorts graduating in bad times have lower wages and poorer health for many years after graduation, compared to those graduating in good times. We investigate whether more educated individuals suffer smaller income and health losses as a result of poor labor market conditions upon labor market entry. We confirm that a higher unemployment rate at graduation is associated with lower income, lower life satisfaction, greater obesity, more smoking and drinking later in life. Further, education plays a protective role for these outcomes, especially when unemployment rates are high: the losses associated with poor labor market outcomes are substantially lower for more educated individuals. Variation in unemployment rates upon graduation can potentially explain a large fraction of the variance in gradients across different countries.
In this paper, we build on the literature that examines associations between height and health outcomes of the elderly. We investigate the associations of height shrinkage at older ages with socioeconomic status, finding that height shrinkage for both men and women is negatively associated with better schooling, current urban residence, and household per capita expenditures. We then investigate the relationships between pre-shrinkage height, height shrinkage, and a rich set of health outcomes of older respondents, finding that height shrinkage is positively associated with poor health outcomes across a variety of outcomes, being especially strong for cognition outcomes.
This paper explores whether educational attainment has a cognitive reserve capacity in elder life. Using pilot data from the China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Study (CHARLS), we examined the impact of education on cognitive abilities at old ages. OLS results showed that respondents who completed primary school obtained 18.2 percent higher scores on cognitive tests than those who did not. We then constructed an instrumental variable (IV) by leveraging China’s Great Famine of 1959e1961 as a natural experiment to estimate the causal effect of education on cognition. Two-stage least squares (2SLS) results provided sound evidence that completing primary school significantly increases cognition scores, especially in episode memory, by almost 20 percent on average. Moreover, Regression Discontinuity (RD) analysis provides further evidence for the causal interpretation, and shows that the effects are different for the different measures of cognition we explored. Our results also show that the Great Famine can result in long-term health consequences through the pathway of losing educational opportunities other than through the pathway of nutrition deprivation.