Urban privilege and rural stigma: The effect of household registration hukou status on occupational mobility and job quality in post-reform China

Zhenyu Tang, Purdue University


This dissertation examines the effect of an institution established by the socialist state, the household registration system (hukou system) on individuals’ labor market outcomes in the context of a growing market economy. Three separate studies are conducted, respectively focusing on workers’ occupational mobility, access to social insurance, and occupational income. China General Social Survey 2006, 2008 and 2010 datasets are used for analysis. The results consistently support the argument of persistent importance of state and state-sponsored institution in shaping the work life of Chinese people. Workers with rural hukou are at a greater risk of substantial occupational downward mobility, and are less likely to experience substantial occupational upward mobility compared to urban workers. Workers with rural hukou also benefit less from education in terms of moving upward compared to urban hukou holders. Workers with rural hukou are at greater risk of working in jobs without any social insurance. After gender, education, party membership, work experience and skills and other factors are controlled, they are less likely to have access to medical insurance, unemployment insurance, or pension schemes. Part of the reason is that workers with rural hukou are more likely to enter jobs with nonstandard employments. For rural hukou workers with a college degree, they still suffer a wage disadvantage compared to their urban peers, after controlling individual and work characteristics. Their wage disadvantage is reduced but remains significant after accounting for the overrepresentation of rural students in vocational colleges.




Stainback, Purdue University.

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