Double-Reduction Policy Yet to Work Magic
The double-reduction policy, rolled out in July 2021 and still effective now, aims to further reduce the burdens of schoolwork and extracurricular tuition on students in compulsory education. A new paper by three authors from the NSD combs through relevant policies across the country from 2005 to 2018 and finds that the policies didn’t manage to evidently reduce such burdens or significantly lower household education outlays; instead, they resulted in a widening gap in educational investment and output.
The authors are Zhou Zikun, a doctoral student at the NSD; Prof. Lei Xiaoyan, PKU Boya Distinguished Professor and NSD’s CCP Secretary; and Prof. Shen Yan, NSD Professor and Deputy Director of PKU Institute of Digital Finance. They base their theoretical models on the diverse scenarios concerning the existence (or not) of competitive school admission mechanisms and after-school private tuition markets. Then they make comparative static analyses of the competitive equilibrium of admission opportunities shaped by families of various economic status and students with different leisure preferences, so as to predict the effects of burden-reduction policies.
Another contribution of the paper lies in the construction of an education burden-reduction index. The authors sort all relevant public documents issued by all provincial and central education departments from 2005 to 2018 and boil them down to 17 sub-categories, each of which is then assigned a score. In this way, the yearly index of every province comes into being.
For empirical analyses, the paper pairs policy index with the micro statistics of individual residents in China Family Panel Studies (CFPS), a long-running nationwide survey, and applies the triple difference estimator framework to assess burden-reduction policies’ impact on different groups of people.
According to the paper, after the implementation of burden-reduction policies, well-off households tended to ramp up their education input to gain ground on admissions, while those with weak economic means were forced to withdraw from admission competition. Between 2008 and 2018, families at the lowest 10% rung of income saw their children’s probability of getting into a high school drop by 9.3%, in contrast to a 5.3% rise by top 10% high earners. In terms of input, the unprivileged households slashed 21% off education investment, while the rich ones ploughed in 66% more; the former group recorded 9.19 hours less study time per week, but the latter chipped in 10.37 more hours.
For the current double-reduction policy to be effective, the authors advise expanding high-quality education supply and decreasing admission competition. In particular, more students should have the opportunity to get enrolled in good-quality high schools. As such, not only will burdens truly be alleviated and people’s demand for good education be met, but also the country can expect to reap the human capital for development.