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Revolution, Reform, and Status Inheritance: Urban China, 1949-1996

Andrew G. Walder and Songhua Hu, “Revolution, Reform, and Status Inheritance:  Urban China, 1949-1996.” American Journal of Sociology 114:5 (March 2009): 1395-1427.


Do regime change and market reform disrupt patterns of intergenerational mobility? China's political trajectory is distinctive from that of other communist regimes in two ways. During its first three decades, the regime enforced unusually restrictive barriers to elite status inheritance. And during the subsequent market transition, unlike most of its counterparts, the Communist Party survived intact. Data from a multigeneration survey suggest that despite their obvious exclusion from the party and related administrative careers in the Mao era, certain prerevolution elites transmitted one type of elite status to their offspring to a surprising degree. Party elites, in contrast, were hit hard by radical Maoism but recovered quickly afterward, and their offspring inherited elite status at much higher rates.