“Golden Ages”: A Tale of the Labor Markets in China and the United States


The peak age of the earnings profile in China declined from 55 in the 1990s to 35 in the 2010s, while in the United States it remained steady at around 50. Motivated by this and other facts, we propose and empirically implement a decomposition framework to infer from repeated cross-sectional earnings data the experience, cohort, and time effects. We find that China experienced a considerably larger intercohort human capital growth and increase in human capital rental price, but lower life-cycle human capital accumulation, compared to the United States. We use the inferred components to revisit several applications in macroeconomics and labor economics.

Journal of Political Economy Macroeconomics

Working Paper: NBER 29523, PIER 21-028, PSC/PARC 2021-79.
Non-Technical Summary: VoxChina.
Media Coverage (Chinese): 禾苗Seminar, FT中文网, 劳动经济学与社保研究, 财新.