Trends in educational stratification during China’s Great Transformation

Rob J. Gruijters*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


This study looks at educational inequality in China, a country that has greatly expanded access to education in recent decades. It uses a sequential logit model to study the changing impact of family background on educational transitions, comparing birth cohorts that completed their schooling during different stages of the market transition process. Data are derived from the China Family Panel Studies (CFPS), a large and nationally representative household survey that provides detailed retrospective information. The findings show that educational inequality in reform-era China followed a pattern of maximally maintained inequality. Although educational expansion diminished disparities in obtaining basic education, inequality persisted or even increased in the more advanced levels, especially at the crucial transition to senior high school. Inequalities only started to decrease for the most recent cohorts, when higher-level transitions became almost universal among high-status groups. These findings can be explained by the nature of China’s economic and educational policies, which heavily favoured urban residents and other privileged groups.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)320-340
Number of pages21
JournalOxford Review of Education
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 26 Oct 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • China
  • China Family Panel Studies (CFPS)
  • Economic transition
  • Educational expansion
  • Educational inequality
  • Market reforms


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