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International Associated Laboratory (LIA) CHINEQ

Inequalities in China : Empirical and Experimental Approaches

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CNRS - Beijing Normal University - Université Lyon 2 - Université Jean Monnet - ENS de Lyon - Université Lyon 1


The International Associated Laboratory (Laboratoire International Associé – LIA) CHINEQ “Inequalities in China : Empirical and Experimental Approaches” has been established in 2014 for a duration of 4 years. It is built upon a strong collaboration in research and training between the Groupe d’Analyse et de Théorie Economique (GATE Lyon Saint-Etienne, UMR CNRS 5824) and the Business School at Beijing Normal University (BNU-BS). The objective of the LIA is to reinforce the existing cooperation between the two teams and to promote new research and training activities in the field of economic inequalities.

LIA presentation (French)
LIA presentation (Chinese)

Scientific coordination

Scientific responsibility and management of the LIA are assumed jointly by Sylvie Démurger, Directrice de Recherche at CNRS and Shi Li, Professor at Beijing Normal University.


The objective of the LIA is to promote the development of joint research projects on the dynamics of inequalities in China. The scientific program of the LIA aims at providing innovative perspectives on issues related to the production and the transmission of inequalities by exploring different dimensions of inequality and highlighting the heterogeneity between population groups.

Four complementary research programs will be conducted within the LIA, each focusing on a specific dimension of inequality and intergroup heterogeneity :

  1. Migration and inequality ;
  2. Inequality and residential segregation ;
  3. Inequality of opportunity ;
  4. Heterogeneity in preferences toward inequality.

The scientific cooperation between GATE and BNU-BS is organized along 4 main activities :

  1. The implementation of joint research programs on inequalities in China, combining various approaches based on theoretical, experimental and applied econometric tools – researchers from both institutions will participate to the different sub-projects ;
  2. The organization of a joint annual workshop, alternatively in China and in France ;
  3. The exchange of students and teaching and research staff ;
  4. The training of Master and PhD students.

Background to the agreement

The creation of the LIA is rooted in long-term relationships established between individual researchers from GATE and from BNU-BS since the early 2000s. Based on this fruitful collaboration, they initiated enlarged collaborations in both research and training at doctoral level between the two institutions in the domains of labour economics and experimental economics, a field in which GATE has a strong international recognition. Various exchanges of researchers between 2007 and 2009 have led to the inauguration of a Joint Experimental Laboratory between BNU-BS and GATE at Beijing Normal University in May 2009.

A new phase in the formal collaboration between the two institutions started in 2011, when the CNRS supported their joint research program on the study of incentives, individual choices and social outcomes through an International Project for Scientific Cooperation (PICS) for the period 2011-2013. The research activities carried out under the PICS aimed at developing new approaches to study the formation of individual decision-making and its implication in the labour market, with a specific focus on China. The specificity of the approach is to combine observational data (micro-economic surveys) and experimental data (laboratory experiments). The research cooperation has been very successful and has resulted in applied work on the evolution of the segmentation of the urban labour market, incentives and constraints on migration choices, the impact of internal migration on communities of origin and destination cities, attitudes towards risk and inequality, the role of emotions in economic choice, or the performance of college admission mechanisms. Part of these works has been published in international scientific journals.

Activities undertaken within the PICS and the LIA are detailed below.

Associated project

Europe-China Collaborative Research Project MARCO_P "Migration and the Reshaping of Consumption Patterns".

  • Funding agencies : ANR (France), DFG (Germany), ESRC (UK) & NSFC (China).
  • Coordinators : (Europe) J. Wahba (University of Southampton), G. Facchini (University of Nottingham), C. Giulietti (IZA) & S. Démurger (GATE) ; (China) S. Li (BNU) & Y. Du (CASS).
  • Duration : 2014-2018

Brief description

The project aims at investigating how migration reshapes the consumption patterns of migrants and other individuals indirectly affected by migration, with particular attention to implications in terms of consumption inequality. Our focus is on both the Great Migration in China and the Chinese diaspora in the EU.
While there is a wealth of studies analysing the consequences of migration on labour market outcomes, systematic evidence is missing on how consumption, consumption behaviour and consumption inequality are affected by migration.
We aim at filling this gap by answering the following three research questions :
a) What is the impact of the Great Migration on consumption patterns ?
b) What are the relationships between institutions, population change and consumption behaviour ?
c) Does migration lead to the transfer of consumption norms ?


- Publications

  • P.P. Combes, S. Démurger & S. Li, Productivity Gains from Agglomeration and Migration in Cities in the People’s Republic of China between 2002 and 2013, GATE Working Paper 2017-09, forthcoming in Asian Development Review.
  • T. Eriksson, L. Mao & M. C. Villeval, Saving Face and Group Identity, GATE Working Paper 2015-15, forthcoming in Experimental Economics.
  • L. Hao, D. Houser, L. Mao & M. C. Villeval, A Field Study of Chinese Migrant Workers’ Attitudes toward Risks, Strategic Uncertainty, and Competitiveness, Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 2016, 131:126–140.
  • S. Démurger & X. Wang, Remittances and expenditure patterns of the left behinds in China, China Economic Review, 2016, 37:177-190.
  • Q. Nguyen, M.C. Villeval & H. Xu, Trust under the Prospect Theory and Quasi-Hyperbolic Preferences : A Field Experiment in Vietnam, Economic Development and Cultural Change, 2016, 64(3):545–572.
  • S. Démurger & H. Xu, Left-behind children and return migration in China, IZA Journal of Migration, 2015, 4:10.
  • P.P. Combes, S. Démurger & S. Li, Migration externalities in Chinese cities, European Economic Review, 2015, 76:152-167.
  • M. Zhu, College Admissions in China : A Mechanism Design Perspective, China Economic Review, 2014, 30:618-631.
  • S. Démurger & S. Li, Migration, remittances and rural employment patterns : Evidence from China, Research in Labor Economics, 2013, 37:31-63 (GATE Working Paper 2012-30).
  • S. Démurger & H. Wan, Payments for ecological restoration and internal migration in China : The Sloping Land Conversion Program in Ningxia, IZA Journal of Migration, 2012, 1:10.
  • S. Démurger, S. Li & J. Yang, Earnings differentials between the public and private sectors in China : Exploring changes for urban local residents in the 2000s, China Economic Review, 2012, 23(1):138-153.
  • S. Démurger & H. Xu, Return migrants : The rise of new entrepreneurs in rural China, World Development, 2011, 39(10):1847-1861.

- Working papers

  • F. Bloch, B. Dutta, S. Robin & M. Zhu, The formation of partnerships in social networks, GATE Working Paper 2017-03.
  • Y. Chen, M. Jiang, O. Kesten, S. Robin & M. Zhu, Matching in the Large : An Experimental Study, GATE Working Paper 2017-02.
  • S. Démurger, S. Li & M. Zhu, Wealth effects on consumption in China, 2002-2013, July 2016.
  • S. Démurger & L. Zhang, Earnings differentials between migrant and local workers in urban China, July 2016.
  • M. Zhu, Migration, remittances and education investment in rural China.
  • S. Démurger, Labour market outcomes of ethnic minorities in urban China, January 2016.
  • H. He & M.C. Villeval, Are teams less inequality averse than individuals ?, GATE Working Paper 2014-17.

- Work in progress

  • S. Badji, Migration as an insurance mechanism ? The case of the left-behind elderly in China
  • S. Badji & S. Démurger, The heterogeneous effect of internal migration on the youth left behind in rural China.
  • P.P. Combes, S. Démurger, S. Li & J. Wang, Unequal productivity gains in urban China.
  • S. Démurger, S. Li & H. Xu, Left-behind children in China : Parental choice or institutional constraints ?
  • S. Démurger, S. Li & H. Xu, Internal migration, family living arrangements and happiness in China.
  • S. Démurger & Y. Li, Housing wealth and household consumption : Evidence from China.
  • S. Démurger, C. Lin, A. D. Schmillen & D. Wang, Can the minimum wage reduce poverty ? Evidence from urban China, 2002-2009.
  • S. Démurger, Family background and income inequality in urban China.
  • Z. Zhao, Skill intensity ratio and housing price in Chinese cities.
  • Z. Zhao, Aging and housing demand in urban China.

Annual BNUBS-GATE Workshop

- BNUBS-GATE workshop 2017 (Heidelberg)

- BNUBS-GATE workshop 2016 (Beijing)

- SEBA-GATE workshop 2015 (Lyon)

- SEBA-GATE workshop 2014 (Shanghai)

- SEBA-GATE workshop 2013 (Lyon)

- SEBA-GATE workshop 2012 (Chengde)

- SEBA-GATE workshop 2011 (Lyon)

- SEBA-GATE workshop 2010 (Pékin)

Training cooperation at PhD level

- On-going PhDs

  • Zhejin ZHAO, Three essays on housing markets and housing policies. Supervisor : F. Goffette-Nagot. Started in Oct. 2013.

- Completed PhDs

  • Mengbing ZHU, Migration, Wealth and Household Consumption in Rural China. Defended on June 12, 2017, jointly supervised by S. Démurger & S. Li.

  • Min ZHU, Three essays on matching mechanisms. Defended on May 13, 2015, supervised by S. Robin.

  • Lei MAO, Three essays on risk attitude and social image. Defended on April 18, 2014, supervised by M.C. Villeval.

  • Haiyuan WAN, The Impact of Public Policy on Labor Migration and Income Inequality : the Role of Social Networks. Defended on April 23, 2012, jointly supervised by S. Démurger & S. Li.