January 2024

IZA DP No. 16763: Hukou Status and Children's Education in China

Under China's household registration (hukou) system, children with rural hukou do not have equal rights to access education in urban areas. This paper investigates the causal effect of hukou status on children's education by exploiting an exogenous change in hukou status induced by the hukou reform in 1998. Before the reform, children could only inherit their mother's hukou status. After 1998, newborns and preschoolers could inherit either their father's or mother's hukou status, which provided a unique exogenous opportunity for children with urban fathers and rural mothers to obtain urban hukou. Using China's 2010 population census data, we employ a difference-in-differences strategy to examine the impact of hukou status on children's education. We show that the younger cohorts exposed to the reform are 15.1 percentage points more likely to have urban hukou and are 18.9 percentage points more likely to be at the grade level appropriate for their age. Moreover, the effect is more pronounced amongst girls, and children from educated families or from large cities.