, Volume 39, Issue 1, pp 95-117

Educational stratification by ethnicity in China: Enrollment and attainment in the early reform years

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Using evidence about educational disparities, this article demonstrates the need for attention to minority populations in studies of social stratification in China. Analyses of data from a 1992 survey of children demonstrate substantial ethnic differences in enrollment among rural 7- to 14 year olds, with rates for ethnic Chinese boys roughly double those for girls from certain ethnic groups. Multivariate analyses indicate that the ethnic gap can be attributed, in part, to compositional differences in geographic location of residence and socioeconomic background. There is no general tendency of a greater gender gap for minorities than for the ethnic Chinese, but significant differences in the gender gap emerge across individual ethnic groups. Together with evidence from census data showing that ethnic disparities in junior high school transitions increased between 1982 and 1990, these results stress the continuing significance of ethnicity as a fundamental factor that conditions status attainment opportunities in China.

The author was supported while conducting research for this article by a fellowship from the Spencer Foundation. The article benefited from helpful comments provided by Claudia Buchmann, Yu Xie, Jihong Liu, James Demopolos, and two anonymous reviewers. Opinions expressed herein are those of the author.