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Mobility Divergence in China? Complete Comparisons of Social Class Mobility and Income Mobility

Author

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  • Xu Sun

    (Dongbei University of Finance and Economics)

  • Xiaolu Lei

    (Dongbei University of Finance and Economics)

  • Baisen Liu

    (Dongbei University of Finance and Economics)

Abstract

Intergenerational social mobility has been of interest to economists and sociologists in recent years. However, with the development of methodologies and applications, it has been found that studying income mobility and class mobility separately often led to some conflicting findings. The class mobility and income mobility of China, a major developing country, has attracted the widespread interest of economists and sociologists from around the world. In this article, we attempt to answer the following questions: Should these divergent findings of intergenerational income and class mobility be regarded as a result of the differing data problems faced by researchers seeking to investigate income and class mobility or as a result of their differing analytical approaches? Is there a significant difference between intergenerational class mobility and income mobility in China? Our own comparative analysis involves measuring the magnitudes and temporal trends of intergenerational class mobility and income mobility. By using China Health and Nutrition Survey data, this paper explicitly tests the differences in the intergenerational associations of the income table and the class table from the “local”, “global”, and “comprehensive” perspectives, and provides smooth estimates of trends of both social class mobility and income mobility. This empirical study demonstrates that there is strong evidence showing that China’s class mobility and income mobility are not consistent in both fluidity levels and trend changes using the same data and same analytical approaches. Furthermore, there is a stronger association between fathers’ class and children’s class than between fathers’ income and children’s income, and the temporal trend of class mobility is more volatile than that of income mobility. This leads us to suggest that, in China, class may in general be a better indicator of socioeconomic status than one-shot measures of current income.

Suggested Citation

  • Xu Sun & Xiaolu Lei & Baisen Liu, 2021. "Mobility Divergence in China? Complete Comparisons of Social Class Mobility and Income Mobility," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 153(2), pages 687-709, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:soinre:v:153:y:2021:i:2:d:10.1007_s11205-020-02501-w
    DOI: 10.1007/s11205-020-02501-w
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