Long live keju! The persistent effects of China's civil examination system

Ting Chen, James Kai-Sing Kung*, Chicheng Ma

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

    102 Citations (Scopus)


    China's civil examination system (keju), an incredibly long-lived institution, has a persistent impact on human capital outcomes today. Using the variation in the density of jinshi-the highest qualification-across 278 Chinese prefectures in the Ming-Qing period (c. 1368-1905) to proxy for this effect, we find that a doubling of jinshi per 10,000 population leads to an 8.5% increase in years of schooling in 2010. The persistent effect of keju can be attributed to a multitude of channels including cultural transmission, educational infrastructure, social capital and, to a lesser extent, political elites.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)2030-2064
    Number of pages35
    JournalEconomic Journal
    Issue number631
    Publication statusPublished - 14 Apr 2020

    Scopus Subject Areas

    • Economics and Econometrics


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