The Paradox of Educational Fairness in China

Wanhua Peng

Xiaobin Peng


Kaiping Peng

Neoclassical economics is founded on a narrow notion of the rational human being, with self-interest and material well-being as the basis of judgment and decision making. This stands in stark contrast to long held views, in philosophy and psychology, that maintain that human reason is motivated in part by emotions and, in particular, by social comparison. The social psychologist Festinger found that much judgment and decision making are the results of social comparison which may or may not reflect the actual reality of individuals. We tested Festingerís notion in Chinese cultural contexts by investigating public discussions of educational fairness. We found that while educational spending has been increasing steadily, sentiments about educational fairness have been deteriorating. Time series analysis shows that these phenomena were not due to price inflation, availability of opinion outlets, or regional difference, but to the psychological process of social comparison. The implications of such a paradox are discussed.

Key Words: Educational spending; Educational fairness; Social comparison; Paradox.
JEL Classification Numbers: E62, H41, J78.