Skip to main content

Poverty in China's Colleges and the Targeting of Financial Aid*

  • Hongbin Li (a1), Lingsheng Meng (a2), Xinzheng Shi (a3) and Binzhen Wu (a4)

We use the Chinese College Student Survey, conducted in 2010, to examine levels of poverty among students on China's campuses. With the poverty line defined as the college-specific expenditures a student needs to maintain a basic living standard on campus, we find that 22 per cent of college students in China are living in poverty. Poverty is more severe among students from rural or western parts of the country. With a targeting count error of more than 50 per cent, it is important that the college need-based aid programme be improved. Lacking other income sources, poor students rely heavily on loans and paid employment to finance their college education.

Corresponding author
Email: (corresponding author).
Hide All

All four authors are affiliated to the China Data Center of Tsinghua University. Hongbin Li acknowledges the financial support from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Project ID: 71025004 and 71121001). Xinzheng Shi acknowledges the financial support of the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Project ID: 71103108). Binzhen Wu acknowledges the financial support from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Project ID: 70903042 and 71373136). We also acknowledge data support from the China Data Center of Tsinghua University.

Hide All
Bettinger, Eric. 2004. “How financial aid affects persistence.” In Hoxby, Caroline (ed.), College Choices: The Economics of Where to Go, When to Go, and How to Pay for It. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 201238.
Chen, Xiaoyu, and Min, Wei-fang. 1999. “Chengben buchang dui gaodeng jiaoyu jihui jundeng de yingxiang” (The effect of cost-sharing on the equality of educational opportunity). Jiaoyu yu jingji 3, 16.
Chung, Yueping, and Lu, Genshu. 2003. “Gaodeng jiaoyu chengben huishou dui gongping de yingxiang” (The equity effects of cost-recovery in higher education). Beijing daxue jiaoyu pinglun 1(2), 5264.
Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). 2008. The CIA World Factbook, 2008. Washington, DC: Central Intelligence Agency.
Desjardins, Stephen L., Ahlburg, Dennis A. and McCall, Brian P.. 2002. “Simulating the longitudinal effects of changes in financial aid on student departure from college.” Journal of Human Resources 37, 653–79.
Ding, Xiaohao. 2000. “Dui Zhongguo gaodeng yuanxiao bu tong jiating shouru xuesheng qunti de diaocha baogao” (The report on the survey on college students with different family incomes). Qinghua daxue jiaoyu yanjiu 12, 102108.
Deming, David, and Dynarski, Susan M.. 2009. “Into college, out of poverty? Policies to increase the postsecondary attainment of the poor.” National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper No. 153.
Dynarski, Susan M. 2002. “The behavioral and distributional implications of aid for college.” American Economic Review 92(2), 279285.
Dynarski, Susan M. 2003. “Does aid matter? Measuring the effect of student aid on college attendance and completion.” American Economic Review 93(1), 279288.
Fan, Shenggen, Zhang, Linxiu and Zhang, Xiaobo. 2004. “Reforms, investment, and poverty in rural China.” Economic Development and Cultural Change 52(2), 395421.
Fang, Cheng, Zhang, Xiaobo and Fan, Shenggen. 2002. “Emergence of urban poverty and inequality in China: evidence from household survey.” China Economic Review 13, 430443.
Goldrick-Rab, Sara. 2006. “Following their every move: an investigation of social class differences in college pathways.” Sociology of Education 79(1), 6179.
Gustafsson, Björn, and Li, Shi. 2004. “Expenditures on education and health care and poverty in rural China.” China Economic Review 15, 292301.
Holzer, Harry, Schanzenbach, Diane W., Duncan, Greg J. and Ludwig, Jens. 2007. “The economic costs of poverty,” 24 January, Accessed 19 September 2013.
Jalan, Jyotsna, and Ravallion, Martin. 1998. “Transient poverty in post-reform rural China.” Journal of Comparative Economics 26, 338357.
Kanbur, Ravi, and Zhang, Xiaobo. 1999. “Which regional inequality: rural–urban or coast–inland?Journal of Comparative Economics 27, 686701.
Kane, Thomas J. 2004. “College going and inequality.” In Neckerman, Kathryn (ed.), Social Inequality. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.
Li, Wenli. 2006a. “Gaodeng jiaoyu caizheng zhengce dui ruxue jihui he ziyuan fenpei gongping de cujin” (The role of higher education financing policy in providing equal enrolment opportunity and resource distribution). Beijing daxue jiaoyu pinglun 4(2), 3446.
Li, Wenli. 2006b. “Gaodeng jiaoyu siren zhichu, jiating gongxian yu zizhu xuqiu fenxi” (Private expenditures, family contributions and financial aid need analysis in China higher education). Jiaoyu yu jingji 3, 1417.
Li, Wenli. 2007. “Family background, financial constraints and higher education attendance in China.” Economics of Education Review 26, 725735.
Meng, Xin, Gregory, Robert and Wang, Youjuan. 2005. “Poverty, inequality, and growth in urban China, 1986–2000.” Journal of Comparative Economics 33(4), 710729.
National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). 2012. “The condition of education, 2012,”, Table A-40-1, Table A-41-1. Accessed 19 September 2013.
Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). 2011. “Education at a glance: OECD indicators 2011,” 13 September, Accessed 19 September 2013.
Park, Albert, and Wang, Sangui. 2001. “China's poverty statistics.” China Economic Review 12, 384398.
Park, Albert, Wang, Sangui and Wu, Guobao. 2002. “Regional poverty targeting in China.” Journal of Public Economics 86(1), 123153.
Ravallion, Martin. 2010. “A comparative perspective on poverty reduction in Brazil, China, and India.” World Bank Research Observer 26(1), 71104.
Ravallion, Martin, and Chen, Shaohua. 2007. “China's (uneven) progress against poverty.” Journal of Development Economics 82(1), 142.
Rozelle, Scott D., Huang, Jikun, Zhang, Linxiu and Li, Xiaofei. 2008. “China's labor transition and future educational challenges,” Accessed 19 September 2013.
Singell, Larry D. 2004. “Come and stay a while: does financial aid effect retention conditioned on enrollment at a large public university?Economics of Education Review 23(5), 459471.
Yang, Po. 2010. “Who gets more financial aid in China? A multilevel analysis.” International Journal of Educational Development 30(6), 560569.
Yang, Po. 2011. “The Impact of financial aid on learning, career decisions, and employment: evidence from recent Chinese college students.” Chinese Education & Society 44(1), 2757.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

The China Quarterly
  • ISSN: 0305-7410
  • EISSN: 1468-2648
  • URL: /core/journals/china-quarterly
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 11
Total number of PDF views: 117 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 275 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 20th July 2018. This data will be updated every 24 hours.