Higher Education

, Volume 70, Issue 3, pp 337–358 | Cite as

Economic consequences of horizontal stratification in postsecondary education: evidence from urban China



Drawing on nationwide representative data, we study the patterns of horizontal stratification of higher education in contemporary urban Chinese society, examining how college major, location, and ranking affect college graduates’ occupational income and the likelihood of assuming a managerial position. The results suggest that (1) college major differentiates graduates’ occupational income, with STEM and professional majors having significant economic advantages. (2) College ranking is significantly correlated with the likelihood of assuming a managerial position, implying that college ranking is an effective signal of prestige to employers in urban China. (3) A “Big City Effect” is detected as college location is significantly associated with salary levels after controlling for job location. This study adds an Eastern case to the literature on education stratification. Theoretical implications of empirical findings are also discussed


Horizontal stratification College major College location College ranking Big City Effect 



This research was supported by the Junior Scholar Project of the Ministry of Education of the People’s Republic of China (13YJC840014), the Chenguang Project of the Shanghai Municipal Education Commission (13CG06), the Research Initiation Project Funding for New Faculty Members of Fudan University, and the Capability Promotion Project Funding of Fudan University. The first author also gratefully acknowledges the general support from the research fund of the School of Social Development and Public Policy at Fudan University.


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyFudan UniversityShanghaiChina
  2. 2.The University of Texas at DallasRichardsonUSA

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