Health outcomes, health inequality and Mandarin proficiency in urban China

Haining Wang, Zhiming Cheng, Russell Smyth*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


We examine the health returns to proficiency in Mandarin in urban China using longitudinal data from the China Family Panel Studies. We find that greater proficiency in Mandarin improves self-reported health, mental health and capacity to perform activities of daily living. We also examine the relationship between Mandarin proficiency and health inequality and the decomposition results show that differences in Mandarin proficiency account for between 2% and 20% of health inequality in urban China, depending on the health indicator. Our results suggest that promoting ‘standard Mandarin’ can serve as a vehicle to improve health outcomes and reduce health inequality.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101305
Pages (from-to)1-18
Number of pages18
JournalChina Economic Review
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2019


  • China
  • Health inequality
  • Health outcome
  • Human capital
  • Mandarin proficiency


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