Costs of Coming of Age in China's Cultural Revolution? Disrupted Education and Its Consequences on Mid-Life Health

Wen Fan, University of Minnesota

During the Cultural Revolution (1966-76) in China, many schools stopped recruitment for up to 10 years. Drawing on data from the State and Life Chances in Urban China Survey (Zhou and Moen 2002) conducted in 20 cities in 1994, this paper examines the effect of education on self-reported health at midlife (ages 34-45) by exploiting exogeneous variation in persons’ exposure to the closing of schools around that time. Results show the odds of attaining a senior-high degree and a college degree are reduced by up to 50% and 70%, respectively, for those coming of age in the Cultural Revolution. However, these individuals do not exhibit worse health in midlife compared to individuals from adjacent cohorts, and the missed schooling years have not translated into worse health. The absence of health effects emphasizes the value of incorporating the historical timing of one’s education into studies of the educational effect on health.

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Presented in Session 76: SES and Health and Mortality