The Short- and Long-Run Effects of Affirmative Action: Evidence from Imperial China

Melanie Meng Xue, New York University Abu Dhabi
Boxiao Zhang, University of California at Los Angeles

China used an examination system to select government officials. The exams were demanding of cognitive skills such as the ability to read, remember and pay attention. We examine a policy reform in 1712 which allowed individuals from less developed provinces to pass the exam with lower scores. We find that this reform indeed led to more successful candidates in less developed provinces. Within provinces, however, such gains were concentrated in the very few prefectures that had the highest density of successful candidates prior to the reform. We propose several possible mechanisms responsible for the widening gap between prefectures. In addition, we examine the role of social organizations such as clans and funding agencies in the long-run impact of the 1712 reform.

See extended abstract

 Presented in Session 232. Policing, Quotas and Slavery: Institutions and Discrimination