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Working Papers

Real Estate Prices in Beijing, 1644 to 1840

Working paper #721
Daniel Raff, Susan M. Wachter and Se Yan

This paper provides the first estimates of housing price movements for Beijing in late pre-modern China. We hand-collect from archival sources transaction prices and other house attribute information from the 498 surviving house sale contracts for Beijing during the first two centuries of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1840), a long period without major wars, political turmoil, or significant institutional change in the Chinese capital. We use hedonic methods to construct a real estate price index for Beijing for the period. The regression analysis explains a major proportion of the variance of housing prices. We find that house prices grew steadily for the first half-century of the Qing Dynasty and declined afterwards in both nominal and real terms through the late eighteenth century. Nominal prices grew starting in the late eighteenth century and declined from the early nineteenth century through 1840. But these price changes occurred with contemporaneous price changes in basic measures of the cost of living: there was little change in real terms to the end of our period.

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