Chinese families move from nice neighborhoods to slums, for the schools.
By Scott Sumner
Over at TheMoneyIllusion I used to do occasional stories on why China will not get stuck in the middle income trap. Here’s another interesting piece of evidence:
BEIJING (Reuters) – Zhong Jian and his wife are willing to pay double the going rate for a tiny home in a Beijing neighbourhood so their 18-month-old daughter will be eligible to attend a top primary school nearby.
Because public primary schools in many Chinese cities have to admit children who live locally, parents like Zhong are driving up property prices in areas that have the most popular schools.
. . .
Zhong, a 32-year old electronics salesman, said he was ready to pay two million yuan ($328,200) for a tiny home with one room the size of about four king-size beds, in a shabby alleyway near the Beijing No.2 Experimental Primary School.
The home, which doesn’t even have a bathroom, sits in a rundown Chinese-style courtyard with other small homes. That would have been more than double the cost for a similar home in downtown Beijing, one real estate agent said.
But the owner still wanted more, so Zhong had to say no.
Other parents said they were willing to pay high prices and endure less than ideal living conditions to get their child into a top primary school.
Chinese families put enormous emphasis on education. Many parents believe that choosing the right primary school for their child is vital to getting them into a good high school followed by a prestigious university.
. . .
Most buyers of school-area homes are relatively well-off parents who give up bigger and newer houses to live near good schools, which are often surrounded by small, older apartments, said HomeLink analyst Zhang.
The closest analogy I can think of is families that move into small apartments or condos in the less desirable areas of Newton, Massachusetts, where I live. They do so for the schools, even though they could afford a much nicer place in neighboring Waltham. Come to think of it, those families are often Chinese-American.
PS. Here the term ‘slum’ simply refers to the physical characteristics of the housing stock, not other implications (crime, poverty, etc) that are associated with the term in other parts of the world.
PPS. This post from Tyler Cowen also shows the intense Chinese interest in education.
Off topic: I have strongly disagreed with John Tamny on monetary economics, but this post on China’s “ghost cities” puts things in perspective.
Update: Perhaps I should explain why this information sends important signals about China, in case it isn’t obvious:
1. It suggests the Chinese revere education.
2. It suggest a culture willing to sacrifice to achieve success.
3. It suggests there are lots of well educated people in Chinese slums, which according to Bryan Caplan is not usually the case in developing countries.