Class Origin, Family Culture, and
Intergenerational Correlation of Education in Rural China

Hiroshi Sato
Li Shi

October 2008


This paper examines the intergenerational correlation of education in rural China. The focus is on the influence of family class origin (jiating chengfen), the political label hung on every family throughout the Maoist era. A nationally representative cross-sectional household survey for 2002 is used. It is shown that the effects of family class origin on family members' educational attainment varies across historical periods. Regarding the educational level of male heads of household with landlord/rich peasant background, we found a drop caused by the class-based discrimination in the Maoist era and a rebound in the postreform era. It was also found that family class origin remains significant for the educational achievement of the current younger generation. Children aged 16-18 who are of landlord/rich peasant and middle peasant origins are more likely to achieve higher educational attainment. We conclude that a class-specific, education-oriented family culture has been shaped first as a mixture of family cultural capital inherited from the pre-Maoist era and surfacing again in the postreform era, and, second, as intergenerational cultural reaction against class-based discrimination during the Maoist era.

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