School Starting Age, Female Education, Fertility Decisions, and Infant Health: Evidence from China’s Compulsory Education Law

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This is the first study analyzing the causal effect of female school starting age and education on fertility and infant health in China. I use Regression Discontinuity and Instrumental Variable methods and study the natural experiment created by the school entrance birthdate threshold requirement in the Compulsory Education Law. Using China Family Panel Studies from 2010 to 2016, I find that females born right after the threshold enter school 0.21 years older in age and obtain 0.59 more completed years of schooling. For females older than 23, although there is little evidence on fertility decision outcomes, starting school later significantly reduces their new-born’s low birthweight by 3.5-percentage points or 54% and times of sickness by 1.52 times. The paper explores the possible mechanisms by looking at female labor market outcomes, such as income and labor force participation, and marriage market outcomes and concludes that higher level of female education induces assortative mating. Heterogeneous test further shows that the above effects are most salient for individuals from the most developed areas or with non-agricultural origin.

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Population Research and Policy Review



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