April 2013

IZA DP No. 7349: Earnings Differentials and Returns to Education in China, 1995-2008

revised version published in : Australian Economic Review, 2015, 48, 382 –399

This paper estimates the returns to education of rural-urban migrants during the period of transition of China's economy between 1995 and 2008. Using data from CHIP and RUMiC, we find that rural migrants' earning differentials with urban residents are substantial and mainly depend on the type of occupation, industry, and employers' ownership, rather than the level of education completed. Returns to formal schooling for migrants remained stable at approximately 3% and 5% throughout the period, and differences across quantiles are generally statistically insignificant. Increasing gaps in the return to schooling by gender have instead emerged. These results raise questions about the incentives to invest in human capital for rural migrants and for the governments funding education in emigration regions.