Designing Heaven's Will: The job assignment in the Chinese imperial civil service

Office of Alumni and External Relations    2021-07-08

Subject: Designing Heaven's Will: The job assignment in the Chinese imperial civil service

Guest: Inacio Lanari Bo, Associate Professor, Southwest University of Finance and Economics

Host: Xi Zhi Lim, Assistant Professor, Antai

Time: Thursday, Jul 15, 2021,  14:30-16:00

Venue: B706, Antai


We use an original analysis of historical documents to explore the evolution of the assignment procedures that were used to allocate entry-level civil service jobs in China from the tenth to the early twentieth century. Three objectives emerged over time, which the assignment procedures tried to take into account through trial and error: eligibility (which defines what jobs are suitable for candidates according to their competence as measured by academic degrees), rule of avoidance (which restricts candidates from being assigned to their home regions), and randomness (which limits personal interference). By constructing a formal model that combines all the different procedures into a common framework, we theoretically compare the effectiveness of these procedures in terms of efficiency (whether the least number of workers are left without a job) and assortativeness (whether as many candidates as possible are matched to jobs fitting their competence). We show that the inherent complexity of the problem was such that changes made to improve the assortativeness of outcomes, which at first sight would have achieved that result could have had the opposite effect.


Ph.D in Economics from Boston College (USA) (2008-2014) , was a Postdoctoral Researcher at the WZB Berlin Social Science Center (Germany) (2014-2019), Lecturer (Assistant Professor) at the Department of Economics and Related Studies at the University of York (U.K.) (2019-2021) and is since April 2021 an Associate Professor at the China Center for Behavioral Economics and Finance - SWUFE.

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