NBER Working Papers by Xiaobo Zhang

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Working Papers

November 2013The Economics of China: Successes and Challenges
with Shenggen Fan, Ravi Kanbur, Shang-Jin Wei: w19648
This paper is the first chapter in the Oxford Companion to the Economics of China (Oxford University Press, forthcoming). Rather than trying to summarize other contributors’ views, we provide our own perspectives on the Economics of China—the past experience and the future prospects. Our reading of China’s economic development over the past 35 years raises two major sets of issues, one of which is inward looking, and the other of which is outward looking. While Chinese aggregate development is impressive, it has raised the question of whether the growth is sustainable, and has led to a set of distributional issues and well-being concerns. We argue that these internal issues combine with those raised by China’s rapid integration and ever growing presence in the international arena, to joint...
April 2012Status Competition and Housing Prices
with Shang-Jin Wei, Yin Liu: w18000
While in standard housing economics housing is regarded as an asset and a consumption good, we study in this paper the consequences for housing prices if housing is also a status good. More concretely, if a family’s housing wealth relative to others is an important marker for relative status in the marriage market, then competition for marriage partners might motivate people to pursue a bigger and more expensive house/apartment beyond its direct consumption (and financial investment) value. To test the empirical validity of the hypothesis, we have to overcome the usual difficulty of not being able to observe the intensity of status competition. Our innovation is to explore regional variations in the sex ratio for the pre-marital age cohort across China, which likely has triggered variatio...
February 2011Sex Ratios, Entrepreneurship, and Economic Growth in the People’s Republic of China
with Shang-Jin Wei: w16800
China experiences an increasingly severe relative surplus of men in the pre-marital age cohort. The existing literature on its consequences focuses mostly on negative aspects such as crime. In this paper, we provide evidence that the imbalance may also stimulate economic growth by inducing more entrepreneurship and hard work. First, new domestic private firms – an important engine of growth – are more likely to emerge from regions with a higher sex ratio imbalance. Second, the likelihood for parents with a son to be entrepreneurs rises with the local sex ratio. Third, households with a son in regions with a more skewed sex ratio demonstrate a greater willingness to accept relatively dangerous or unpleasant jobs and supply more work days. In contrast, the labor supply pattern by households ...
June 2009The Competitive Saving Motive: Evidence from Rising Sex Ratios and Savings Rates in China
with Shang-Jin Wei: w15093
The high and rising household savings rate in China is not easily reconciled with the traditional explanations that emphasize life cycle factors, the precautionary saving motive, financial development, or habit formation. This paper proposes a new competitive saving motive: As the sex ratio rises, Chinese parents with a son raise their savings in a competitive manner in order to improve their son's relative attractiveness for marriage. The pressure on savings spills over to other households. Both cross-regional and household-level evidence supports this hypothesis. This factor can potentially account for about half of the actual increase in the household savings rate during 1990-2007.

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