Based on county-level data in 1997 and 2000, this study attempts to document resource utilization and disparities in compulsory education in China. It found that while the pattern of resource utilization was similar across different areas in the country, there were substantial disparities in the level of per-student spending across these areas. The spending gap was particularly substantial between urban and rural areas, and between coastal region and other regions. Although non-minority areas spent more than minority areas, the gap was relatively modest. Five measures of inequality were estimated and they showed a remarkable consistency in demonstrating a large degree of inequality in school spending at both primary and lower-secondary levels nationwide in 2000. Decomposition of the Theil indexes indicated that between two-thirds and three-quarters of financial inequality resided within provinces; urban-rural inequality accounted for about one third of the overall inequality. Huge regional inequality has actually overshadowed the urban-rural differences. Comparison of 1997 and 2000 results showed that nationwide, there was no significant increase in the overall level of inequality in per-student total spending. However, in the same period, the spending gap increased between counties at the top-end and bottom-end of the spending distribution. The implications of these findings for education policy were discussed.
Education & Economy