What values do we bequeath to our grandchildren? Alberto Alesina et al. on the generations following the Cultural Revolution in China

from Market Design at https://bit.ly/2AlUweS on May 31, 2020 at 01:26PM

In what is perhaps the last paper he completed before his recent untimely death on May 23 from a heart attack, Alberto Alesina (1957-2020) and colleagues consider how effectively the Cultural Revolution in China in disrupting the old pattern of elites, and of how it looks today in the grandchildren’s generation.

Persistence through Revolutions
Alberto F. Alesina, Marlon Seror, David Y. Yang, Yang You, Weihong Zeng
NBER Working Paper No. 27053, April 2020.

The Chinese Communist Revolution in the 1950s and Cultural Revolution from 1966 to 1976 aimed to eradicate inequality in wealth and education, to shut off intergenerational transmission, and to eliminate cultural differences in the population. Using newly digitized archival data and linked contemporary household surveys and census, we show that the revolutions were effective in homogenizing the population economically and culturally in the short run. However, the pattern of inequality that characterized the pre-revolution generation re-emerges today. Grandchildren of the pre-revolution elites earn 17 percent more than those from non-elite households. In addition, the grandchildren of pre-revolution elites differ in their cultural values: they are less averse to inequality, more individualistic, more pro-market, more pro-education, and more likely to see hard work as critical to success. Through intergenerational transmission, socioeconomic conditions and cultural traits thus survived one of the most aggressive attempts to eliminate differences in the population and to foster mobility.