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Labor Market in China

Paper Session

Sunday, Jan. 6, 2019 8:00 AM - 10:00 AM

Hilton Atlanta, 216
Hosted By: Chinese Economists Society
  • Chair: Haizheng Li, Georgia Institute of Technology

Can Job Tasks Improve Cognitive Skills?

Qinyi Liu
University of International Business and Economics
Haizheng Li
Georgia Institute of Technology


In this study, we investigate whether an individual’s cognitive skills can be improved through on-the-job learning, more specifically via tasks at work. We introduce the tasks at work into the traditional cognitive skill production function and use the survey data from OECD, the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) 2012 for the USA. With rich information on job tasks performed at individual level, we construct different job complexity measures: a general job complexity measure, and two specific complexity measures of interactive and analytical tasks. The challenge in identifying the causal effect of job tasks on cognitive skills is the selection into complex job tasks due to unobserved heterogeneity. To address the selection problem, we apply various econometric techniques in the estimation in order to identify the causal learning effect. Our estimates show that complex tasks at work can help improve the worker’s cognitive skills and functioning, and analytical tasks appear to play a more important role. Additionally, job tasks can reduce the negative effect of aging on cognitive functioning. The study will have important implications on job task allocation, skill improvement, cognitive functioning, and even on retirement policies.

China’s Left-Behind Children: A New Look at the Impact of Intergenerational Care on Cognitive and Non-Cognitive Performance

Huanan Xu
Indiana University South Bend


Migrated workers from rural to urban cities have been an important contributor to the development of Chinese economy. The performance of children in rural areas left behind by their migrated parents has received increasing attention. In particular, very little is known about the performance of those who were brought up by grandparents. This paper provides a detailed examination of the impact of intergenerational care on left-behind children’s physical, cognitive, and social development. Funded by China Agricultural University, we collected data from two largest inland migrated-worker-exporting provinces in China, and surveyed 5641 rural children among 60 rural primary schools in 2017. We estimate the impact of grandparent care on children’s physical, cognitive, and social performance in different living status. A close examination of the role of grandparent care is provided in situations where both parents migrated, only father migrated, and only mother migrated, for different set of comparison groups. Empirical results show that left- behind children perform worse in standardized math tests, at the same time appear to feel more depressed and less esteemed as compared to non-left-behind children, after controlling for personal characteristics and the school and cohort fixed effects. The sole provision of grandparent care does not improve this outcome, however, the availability of grandparent care on top of the in-home parent’s guidance helps to erase the performance gap between left-behind and non-left-behind children. Additionally, by exploring the within-group heterogeneity among left-behind families, we find that the complementary support of grandparent care has a positive impact on left-behind children when compared to their counterparts.

Does Hukou Pay? Evidence from Nanny Markets in Urban China

Xiaobo He
Shanghai University of International Business and Economics
Zijun Luo
Sam Houston State University


Based on the information of over 170 thousand individuals who signed up on a Chinese online job site of part-time and full-time in-house care providers, we attempt to quantify the economic effect of Hukou, the Chinese household registration system that puts restrictions on migration especially from rural to urban areas. We find that, after controlled for individual characteristics and city level macroeconomic indicators, nannies have higher expected wage in cities that have more restrictive Hukou entry. The effect is less significant in high-skill nannies, such as maternity matrons and live-in nannies. The effect is also less significant in high wage quantiles. One possible explanation is whether the nanny markets are better established in a location or for certain types of job.
JEL Classifications
  • J6 - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers