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Essays on cultural diffusion, migration, and human capital : investigation from China's historical experience

Authors Li, Nan
Issue Date 2011
Summary Essay One: The Diffusion of Cultural Traits: Migration and Human Capital in Late Imperial China, 960-1643 This paper argues that the role of cultural difference between regions in accumulation of human capital falls under the process of culture diffusion. Using unique province-level data from Song to Ming China (960-1643), we find that the spatial difference in cultural traits measured by genetic distance (calculated by surnames), a measure associated with the time elapsed since two populations’ last common ancestors, has a strong positive effect on differences in human capital (measured by the number of palace degree-holders (Jishi)) between regions, even controlling for measures of educational and socioeconomic differences, and geographical factors. We further provide a mechanism linking cultural diffusion and great migration in China’s history to explain differences in human capital, namely, that the flow of population promotes cultural diffusion and reduces differences in culture between regions. Differences in human capital are the result of migration in China’s history. The whole study highlights the importance of cultural diffusion caused by migration in reducing differences in human capital. Essay Two: The Long-term Consequences of Cultural Distance on Migration: Historical Evidence from China, 960-1982 Culture is not new to the study of migration. However, quantitative empirical evidence on the effect of culture on migration remains weak. This paper, using a unique dataset on migration over a long period (over one thousand years) from China with new measures on cultural distance from biological evidence, examines the effect of cultural distance on migration in China’s history since the Song Dynasty. Our findings show that culture has strong effects on migration between regions when controlling for other socioeconomic factors such as population, war and disaster and geographical factors. Population flow is greater where there are fewer cultural differences. This finding not only provides quantitative empirical evidence on linking cultural distance and migration, but also leads to a better understanding of the mechanism of great migration in China’s history.
Note Thesis (Ph.D.)--Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, 2011
Language English
Format Thesis
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