Inequality and Social Stratification in Post-socialist China


This essay reviews research on inequality and social stratification in China since the mid-1990s. Going beyond the theoretical framework of the market transition debate, research in the field has been much advanced by paying more attention to the roles of the institutions of Chinese state socialism, such as the household registration (hukou) and urban work unit (danwei) systems, and workers’ self-selective mobility. Empirical studies have benefited from the systematic collection of well-designed and high-quality survey data and from the application of advanced statistical methods. Substantive analysis has been extended to new themes related to social class, gender, ethnicity, education, wealth and housing. The essay concludes by seeking to identify wider implications of empirical findings from China for comparative research on inequality and social stratification and provides some suggestions on the future direction of the field, including more efforts on theorization, comparative research, concrete institutional changes, and specific regional contexts. Sociological research on inequality should also be actively engaged in public policy discussion on relevant issues.