Changes in the Pattern of Intergenerational Mobility in Contemporary China

Social Sciences in China (Chinese Edition)

No.5, 2015





Li Lulu and Zhu Bin


Using data from three China General Social Surveys, we analyze the basic situation and changing trends in intergenerational mobility among Chinese social strata over the past 60 years. Our research finds that overall mobility is rising and social openness shows a wave-like pattern, but intergenerational inheritance remains the dominant model in intergenerational mobility in different periods. In the course of socioeconomic transition, the main mechanism of social exclusion has changed from “systemic exclusion” to “market exclusion,” leading to changes in the structure of social opportunity and a transformation in patterns of intergenerational mobility. The main changes are a decline in inherited advantages among specific strata and the growing difficulty of cyclical cross-strata mobility. Changes in the mechanism of social exclusion can boost social openness, stimulating social dynamism and strengthening social legitimacy. But if superior strata use the market exclusion mechanism in the interests of their own reproduction, social strata in China may yet harden.