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Abstract

The paper studies the levels and changes in wage inequality among Chinese rural-urban migrants from 2002 to 2007. We use the Chinese Household Income Project dataset and the Rural to Urban Migration in China dataset to construct a unique dataset that allows us to document changing wage inequality among migrants and among urban natives between 2002 and 2007. We find that wage inequality among migrants decreased significantly between 2002 and 2007, whereas it increased among urban natives during the same period. Our results show that the high-wage migrants experienced slower wage growth than middle- and low-wage migrants, a primary cause of declining inequality among migrants. We used distributional decomposition methods, and find that the overall between-group effect (coefficient effect) dominates in the whole wage distribution of the migrants, which means that the change in returns to the characteristics (education and experience) play a key role, but on the upper tails of the wage distribution, the within group effect (residual price effect) dominates which implies that the unobservable factors or institutional barriers do not favor the migrants at the top tail of the wage distribution.

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