The household registration system and social stratification in China: 1955–1996

Abstract

The Chinese household registration system (hukou), which divides the population into “agricultural” and “nonagricultural” sectors, may be the most important determinant of differential privileges in state socialist China, determining access to good jobs, education for one’s children, housing, health care, and even the right to move to a city. Transforming one’s hukou status from rural to urban is a central aspect of upward social mobility. Using data from a 1996 national probability sample, we show that education and membership in the Chinese Communist Party are the main determinants of such mobility.

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This research was supported by grants to UCLA from the Ford Foundation-Beijing, the Luce Foundation, and the National Science Foundation (SBR-9423453), to carry out the survey of Life Histories and Social Change in Contemporary China analyzed here, and a Mellon postdoctoral fellowship to Wu at the Population Studies Center, University of Michigan. We thank William Mason and Judith Seltzer at UCLA, Yu Xie at the University of Michigan, and the anonymous referees for their helpful comments.

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Wu, X., Treiman, D.J. The household registration system and social stratification in China: 1955–1996. Demography 41, 363–384 (2004). https://doi.org/10.1353/dem.2004.0010

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Keywords

  • Chinese Communist Party
  • Urban Status
  • Household Registration
  • Party Membership
  • Military Experience