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Social Mobility From a Kinship Perspective: Rural Liaoning, 1789-1909

Archived Abstract of Former PSC Researcher

Campbell, Cameron D., and James Z. Lee. 2003. "Social Mobility From a Kinship Perspective: Rural Liaoning, 1789-1909." International Review of Social History, 48(part1): 1-26.

This paper examines the role of kin networks in intergenerational mobility in rural Liaoning, China, 1789-1909. Classic studies of social mobility in historical China based on the records of imperial examination candidates suggest that society was relatively fluid. It has been claimed, however, that associations between fathers' and sons' outcomes overestimate the fluidity of historical Chinese society because many men who achieved prominence had been helped by senior kin other than their fathers. We test these claims by applying event-history techniques to longitudinal, nominative household register data, measuring the effects of characteristics of kin on the chances of obtaining an official title. Even though distant kin influenced the chances of obtaining a title, kin networks did not monopolize opportunities. There was substantial downward mobility among the sons of prominent families, and high proportions of titleholders were new, in the sense of not having any senior kin who held titles.

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