China has undergone a rapid expansion in higher education since the late 1990s. Drawing on a recently collected nationwide representative data, the current study makes contributions to the understanding of the health benefits of college education in urban China. Using propensity score matching to deal with potential selection bias, the results of the current research suggest that higher education attainment can significantly promote people’s self-rated health status, with the control for a series of demographic and socio-economic characteristics. Moreover, this research also highlights the heterogonous treatment effects: those who are more likely to attend college benefit less from the health returns to higher education than those who are less likely to go to college, lending support to a negative heterogeneous treatment effect pattern. Finally, we also examine the cohort difference in the heterogeneous treatment effect and it turns out that the negative pattern mainly takes place among the cohorts born after 1981, the generations who experienced the expansion of higher education.
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The information of enrollment rate collected by UNESCO can be found at http://stats.uis.unesco.org.
For instance, Loyalka et al. (2012) classified higher education institutions in China into four tiers. First tier higher education institutions are directly under the Ministry of Education and other central-government Ministries or Commissions. Second-tier institutions are “less-selective public institutions under the jurisdiction of provincial government agencies” (Loyalka et al. 2012: 290). Third-tier colleges are supported by private funding and are usually called “independent schools.” Most of the fourth-tier universities are other types of institutions which are not 4 years colleges but vocational schools with a 3 years length of schooling.
In the interests of clarification, the variables used to predict propensity score values are called covariates throughout this article in order to make a distinction from the control variables when analyzing the health benefits of higher education.
It is necessary to point out that simply treating family background covariates as control variables in regular regression-like models may not be sufficient to address selection effect. In addition to the restrictions of model forms, regression-like models cannot guarantee the support of the data sufficiently overlap between treated and control individuals. More information about the advantages of propensity score matching relative to regression models, see Harding (2003).
This covariate was dichotomized at the level of high school because the percentage of college graduates for parents is very low.
The Communist Party, Democratic Parties, and the Communist Youth League are typical political identities in China. Members of Democratic Parties are generally viewed to be partners of the Communist Party and members of the Communist Youth League are the reserve individuals for the Communist Party.
In the comparison between the findings based on the matched sample and the full sample, it is necessary to keep their sample sizes as close as possible because variation in sample sizes may change standard errors as well as statistical power. In this light, we restrict our full-sample analysis to those individuals who do not have missing values on the covariates used to predict propensity score. This restriction does not mean a replication of the analysis shown in Table 3. That is because we do not require individuals in the original sample to be matched although they have nonmissing values for the covariates predicting propensity score.
Further analysis shows that around 40 % of those who did not experience higher education expansion hold a college degree. This percentage rises to over 60 % for those who were born after 1981.
Since the data used in this research is a cross-sectional data, the findings here can only be used for illustrative purpose. Strict causal relationship should not be concluded.
For example, most parents of the children who were born before 1981 worked for the state-owned enterprises or public agencies. The egalitarian distribution of compensations in these work units suggests the extent of income inequality between families was not salient. This egalitarian family origin background gradually died out in the process of marketization and the differentiation between family origin background is enlarged (Meng 2004). Such heterogeneous family background may partly account for the heterogeneous treatment effect of higher education.
211 universities are listed in the Project 211, which was launched in 1995 by the central government to establish 100 key universities in China by the twenty-first century. “it is estimated that during the period 1996–2002 alone, nearly 18.3 billion RMB was allocated from the central government on Project 211, including 6.3 billion for quality improvement in key areas of study in universities that were selected by the MOE and 1.0 billion for improving infrastructure and equipment in related universities” (Huang 2005: 121). 985 Project was initiated in 1998 with the aim of establishing establish some first-rank and world-class universities in China. Universities listed in 985 Project can be funded jointly by the central government and local authorities. Many 211 universities are at the same time 985 universities.
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This research was supported by the Fudan University 985 Project Funding “Institutional Change, Transition in the Structure of Stratification, and Social Construction: Theoretical Exploration and Policy Implications” (2011SHKXZD008).
See Tables 5, 6.
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Hu, A. The Health Benefits of College Education in Urban China: Selection Bias and Heterogeneity. Soc Indic Res 115, 1101–1121 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11205-013-0266-2
- Health benefits
- College education
- Urban China
- Selection bias