1st Edition

Understanding Inequality in China The Contribution of the Chinese General Social Survey

Edited By Xiaogang Wu, Jia Miao Copyright 2025
    366 Pages
    by Routledge

    This edited volume provides an overview of inequality and stratification in contemporary China. A rare and timely resource, it presents key research on the topic published in Chinese Sociological Review from 2011 to 2023, using one or multiple waves of Chinese General Social Survey (CGSS) data, reflecting the advancement of the field over the past decade.

     The CGSS, launched in 2003 and modelled after the US General Social Survey, is an annual or biennial cross-sectional survey of a nationally representative sample of the population from all provinces except for Tibet. Certain waves of CGSS data (e.g., 2003 and 2008) contain detailed retrospective information about education and job history, which can be analysed to address various issues related to educational stratification and career mobility in both the pre-reform and reform eras. At the junction of the 20th anniversary of the CGSS (2003-2023), this volume draws on CGSS data to uncover dynamic and evolving inequality in China by examining topics such as education stratification, income inequality, career and intergeneration mobility, and how they are shaped by the socialist/post-socialist institutional structure such as the household registration (hukou) system, the work unit (danwei) system. This collection significantly advances the understanding of Chinese social stratification, extending far beyond scholars’ initial interests in the social consequences of the market transition.

     This volume invites social scientists to think more deeply about how politics and economics interplay with other social and demographic trends in shaping the pattern of inequality and provides a rich source and foundation for understanding inequality dynamics in contemporary China.

    Xiaogang Wu and Jia Miao

    1. The Chinese General Social Survey (2003-8): Sample Designs and Data Evaluation
    Yanjie Bian and Lulu Li

    2. The Household Registration System and Rural-Urban Educational Inequality in Contemporary China
    Xiaogang Wu

    3. Redrawing the Boundaries: Work Units and Social Stratification in Urban China
    Xiaogang Wu

    4. Job Mobility in Postreform Urban China
    Jun Li


    5. Between State and Market: Hukou, Nonstandard Employment, and Bad Jobs in Urban China
    Kevin Stainback and Zhenyu Tang


    6. Intergenerational Mobility in Contemporary China
    Meng Chen

    7. Higher Education Expansion and Social Stratification in China
    Jean Yeung

    8. Chinese Adulthood Higher Education: Life-Course Dynamics Under State Socialism
    Qing Lai

    9. Key-Point Schools and Entry into Tertiary Education in China
    Hua Ye

    10. Hukou stratification, class structure, and earnings in transitional China
    Qiong (Miranda) Wu and Michael Wallace

    11. Income Inequality in Urban China, 1978-2005
    Wim Jansen and Xiaogang Wu

    12. Earnings returns to tertiary education in urban China, 1988–2008
    Hua Ye


    13. Understanding the consequence of higher educational expansion in China: a double-treatment perspective
    Maocan Guo


    Xiaogang Wu is Yufeng Global Professor of Social Science, Professor of Sociology at New York University and NYU Shanghai, and the Founding Director of Center for Applied Social and Economic Research (CASER) at NYU Shanghai. Wu is a leading scholar in research on Chinese inequality and social stratification. He has published over 70 articles in peer-reviewed journals. He has been serving as the Chief Editor of the Chinese Sociological Review since 2011, Associate Editor (Social Stratification) of Sociology Compass (2023-2025), and Global Scholar at Princeton University (2020-2024).

    Jia Miao
    is Assistant Professor of Sociology at NYU Shanghai. Her research investigates how urban neighbourhoods affect social cohesion, health inequality, productive aging, and individual subjective well-being in the Asian context. She is also interested in the social consequences of homeownership in large Chinese cities. Her work has appeared in Social Science and Medicine, Social Forces, and among others.