Persistence through Revolutions


Alberto Alesina, Marlon Seror, David Yang, and Weihong Zong. Working Paper. “Persistence through Revolutions.” Submitted.
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Can efforts to eradicate inequality in wealth and education eliminate intergenerational persis- tence of socioeconomic status? The Chinese Communist Revolution in the 1950s and Cultural Revolution from 1966 to 1976 aimed to do exactly that. Using newly digitized archival records and contemporary census and household survey data, we show that the revolutions were ef- fective in homogenizing the population economically in the short run. However, the pattern of inequality that characterized the pre-revolution generation re-emerges today. Almost half a century after the revolutions, individuals whose grandparents belonged to the pre-revolution elite earn 16 percent more and have completed more than 11 percent additional years of school- ing than those from non-elite households. In addition, individuals with pre-revolution elite grandparents hold different values: they are less averse to inequality, more individualistic, more pro-market, and more likely to see hard work as critical to success. Through intergenera- tional transmission of values, socioeconomic conditions thus survived one of the most aggres- sive attempts to eliminate differences in the population and to foster mobility.

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Last updated on 08/18/2020