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From workers to capitalists in less than two generations: A study of Chinese urban elite transformation between 1988 and 2013

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  • Li Yang

    (PSE - Paris School of Economics - ENPC - École des Ponts ParisTech - ENS Paris - École normale supérieure - Paris - PSL - Université Paris sciences et lettres - UP1 - Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique - EHESS - École des hautes études en sciences sociales - INRAE - Institut National de Recherche pour l’Agriculture, l’Alimentation et l’Environnement, WIL - World Inequality Lab)

  • Filip Novokmet

    (University of Bonn)

  • Branko Milanovic

    (New York University - NYU - New York University [New York] - NYU - NYU System)

Abstract

Economic and social transformation of China during the past 40 years is without precedent in human history. While the economic transformation was extensively studied, social transformation was not. In this paper, we use for the first time harmonized household surveys covering the period 1988-2013 to study the changes in the characteristics the richest 5 percent of China's urban population. We find that the elite changed from being composed of high government officials, clerical staff, and workers in 1988 to professionals and small and large business owners in 2013. The educational level of the elite increased substantially. Membership in CCP has a positive (albeit small) effect on one's income but is particularly valuable to large business owners.

Suggested Citation

  • Li Yang & Filip Novokmet & Branko Milanovic, 2019. "From workers to capitalists in less than two generations: A study of Chinese urban elite transformation between 1988 and 2013," World Inequality Lab Working Papers hal-02876990, HAL.
  • Handle: RePEc:hal:wilwps:hal-02876990
    Note: View the original document on HAL open archive server: https://hal-pjse.archives-ouvertes.fr/hal-02876990
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    Keywords

    China; elites; income share; class; top incomes;
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