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The Household Registration System and Social Stratification in China: 1955-1996

Publication Abstract

Wu, Xiaogang, and Donald J. Treiman. 2004. "The Household Registration System and Social Stratification in China: 1955-1996." Demography , 41(2): 363-384.

The Chinese household registration system (hukou) may be the most important determinant of differential privilege in state socialist China. Urban registrants are entitled to the best jobs, education, housing, and health care -- all of which are unavailable to those with rural registration. Thus, transforming one's hukou status from rural to urban is a central aspect of upward mobility. But given that hukou status is essentially ascribed at birth, how do rural hokou holders affect this change to urban status? Using data from a 1996 national probability sample, we found that education, communist party membership, and military service are the main determinants of rural-to-urban status changes.

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