Job Market Paper

Heterogeneity in the Multidimensional Child Quality-Quantity Trade-off and Its Consequences for Intergenerational Mobility

Abstract: This paper studies the heterogeneity in the trade-off between child quantity and different dimensions of child quality. I test how parents adjust investments in their firstborn children's health, education, and wealth in response to changes in child quantity. I then check whether there is heterogeneity across parental occupations for each dimension of child quality. To identify an exogenous change in child quantity, I use variation in the strictness of fertility restrictions in rural China. I find that stricter fertility restrictions reduce the number of siblings and improve the health of all children with parents in different occupations. But the impacts on other dimensions of child quality vary significantly by parental occupation. In response to stricter fertility restrictions, only parents in high-skill occupations invest more in their firstborn children's education. Farmers pass on more land, while low-skill workers transfer more financial and housing assets to their firstborn children. The heterogeneous responses to a reduction in child quantity have consequences for labor market outcomes and intergenerational income mobility. While children of farmers and low-skill workers experience little change in labor market outcomes, children of high-skill workers are more likely to work in a high-skill job and earn a higher income when having fewer siblings.


Early Life Exposure to Tap Water and the Development of Cognitive Skills

with Yvonne Jie Chen and Li Li, Journal of Human Resources, forthcoming.

Abstract: This paper examines the impact of early life exposure to tap water on children’s cognitive skills in later life. We exploit the variation in the timing of tap water connection across communities imposed by a major drinking water safety program in rural China. Using data extracted from the China Family Panel Studies, we find that one additional year of exposure to tap water in early life increases cognitive test score at ages 10-15 by 0.132 standard deviations. Event study estimates confirm that the beneficial impacts are concentrated in early life.

[Online Appendix] [media: THE PAPER 澎湃新闻 (Chinese); JHR Research Highlights]

Education and Gender Role Attitudes

with Huichao Du and Liqiu Zhao, Journal of Population Economics, 2021, 34, 475–513.

Abstract: This paper examines whether education plays an important role in shaping individuals’ gender role attitudes. We exploit the exogenous variation in temporal and geographical impacts of the 1986 Compulsory Education Law in China, which reduces the inequality in compulsory school attendance across regions. Using the data from the China General Social Survey, we find that the extra schooling induced by the compulsory schooling reform leads to more egalitarian gender role attitudes. Education’s liberalizing effect is concentrated among females and urban residents. However, the education’s impacts on gender-equal behavior are much weaker than that on attitudes. Finally, we discuss the potential channels through which education shapes individuals’ gender-role attitudes.

Working Papers (Under Review)

Aid Fragmentation and Corruption

with Travers Barclay Child and Austin Wright, University of Chicago, Becker Friedman Institute for Economics Working Paper No. 2021-69

Revise and Resubmit at the Review of Economics and Statistics

Abstract: Effectiveness of development aid is widely perceived to suffer in the presence of multiple donors with overlapping responsibilities. We test existing theory on aid fragmentation by studying aid provision under numerous donors throughout Afghanistan from 2006-2009. Leveraging granular military data on aid, conflict, corruption, and public opinion, we conduct the first micro-level analysis of aid fragmentation. When delivered by a single donor, aid reduces conflict, curtails corruption, and boosts public opinion. But under donor fragmentation, the benefits of aid are significantly reduced. We are able to distinguish among various causal pathways underlying these heterogeneous effects. Our findings are robust to accounting for a battery of novel observable confounding factors as well as a computational bounding exercise used to assess potential bias arising from unobserved factors. Our evidence suggests fragmentation facilitates corruption and erodes the ability of development aid to win ‘hearts and minds’ in the fight against insurgents. This study yields potentially actionable insights about improving government policy and public welfare outcomes in fragile and weakly institutionalized settings.

Spillovers in Childbearing Decisions and Fertility Transitions: Evidence from China

with Pauline Rossi, Tinbergen Institute Discussion Paper 2020-031/V

Abstract: This article uses China’s family planning policies to quantify and explain spillovers in fertility decisions. We test whether ethnic minorities decreased their fertility in response to the policies, although only the majority ethnic group, the Han Chinese, were subject to birth quotas. We exploit the policy rollout and variation in pre-policy age-specific fertility levels to construct a measure of the negative shock to Han fertility. Combining this measure with variation in the local share of Han, we estimate that a woman gives birth to 0.64 fewer children if the average completed fertility among her peers is exogenously reduced by one child. The fertility response of minorities is driven by cultural proximity with the Han and by higher educational investments, suggesting that spillovers operate through both social and economic channels. These results provide evidence that social multipliers can accelerate fertility transitions.

[media: VoxChina]

In Utero Exposure to Tap Water and Childhood Height

with Li Li

Abstract: This study quantifies and explains the effects of in utero exposure to tap water on height in childhood. We exploit the gradual adoption of tap water connections across villages under a rural drinking water program in China. Using data from the China Family Panel Studies, we find that tap water exposure in utero substantially increases height-for-age in childhood. The effects are especially strong among children born to less-educated mothers and are driven by better health before age one and more subsequent health investments from the parents. The results suggest that improved access to tap water has the potential to flatten the socioeconomic gradient in health.

Pre-PhD Publications

Effect of Reliable Electricity on Health Facilities, Health Information and Health Services Utilization: Evidence from Rural Gujarat, India

with Yvonne Jie Chen and Namrata Chindarkar, Journal of Health, Population and Nutrition, 2019, 38(7).

Education on the Cheap: The Long-run Effects of a Free Compulsory Education Reform in Rural China

with Li Li and Liqiu Zhao, Journal of Comparative Economics, 2017, 45, 544–562.