NBER Working Papers by Xin Meng

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Working Papers

December 2013Economic Transition and Private-Sector Labor Demand: Evidence from Urban China
with Lakshmi Iyer, Nancy Qian, Xiaoxue Zhao: w19733
This paper studies the policy determinants of economic transition and estimates the demand for labor in the infant private sector in urban China. We show that a reform that untied access to housing in urban areas from working for the state sector accounts for more than a quarter of the overall increase in labor supply to the private sector during 1986-2005. Using the reform to instrument for private-sector labor supply, we find that private-sector labor demand is very elastic. We provide suggestive evidence that the reform equalized wages across sectors and reduced private-sector rents.
September 2010The Institutional Causes of China's Great Famine, 1959-61
with Nancy Qian, Pierre Yared: w16361
This paper investigates the institutional causes of China’s Great Famine. It presents two empirical findings: 1) in 1959, when the famine began, food production was almost three times more than population subsistence needs; and 2) regions with higher per capita food production that year suffered higher famine mortality rates, a surprising reversal of a typically negative correlation. A simple model based on historical institutional details shows that these patterns are consistent with the policy outcomes in a centrally planned economy in which the government is unable to easily collect and respond to new information in the presence of an aggregate shock to production.
April 2009The Long Term Consequences of Famine on Survivors: Evidence from a Unique Natural Experiment using China's Great Famine
with Nancy Qian: w14917
This paper estimates the long run impact of famine on survivors in the context of China’s Great Famine. To address problems of measurement error of famine exposure and potential endogeneity of famine intensity, we exploit a novel source of variation in regional intensity of famine derived from the unique institutional determinants of the Great Famine. To address attenuation bias caused by selection for survival, we estimate the impact on the upper quantiles of the distribution of outcomes. Our results indicate that in-utero and early childhood exposure to famine had large negative effects on adult height, weight, weight-for-height, educational attainment and labor supply.
June 1999Dress for Success — Does Primping Pay?
with Daniel S. Hamermesh, Junsen Zhang: w7167
A unique survey of Shanghai residents in 1996 that combined labor-market information, appraisals of respondents' beauty, and household expenditures allows us to examine the relative magnitudes of the investment and consumption components of women's spending on beauty-enhancing goods and services. We find that beauty raises women's earnings (and to a lesser extent, men's) adjusted for a wide range of controls. Additional spending on clothing and cosmetics has a generally positive but decreasing marginal impact on a woman's perceived beauty. The relative sizes of these effects demonstrate that such purchases pay back at most 10 percent of each unit of expenditure in the form of higher earnings. Most such spending represents consumption.

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