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Social Occupational Classes and Higher-Education Opportunities in Contemporary China: A Study on the Distribution of a Scarce Social Capital

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Based on the several surveys conducted since the 1990s onward, this paper aims to demonstrate that in terms of the access to higher education, social class differentiation is far starker than that of urban/rural income in contemporary China. According to the investigation that focused on students enrolled in 37 universities, the chance of farmers’ children to have a higher education is 5.6 times lower than that of nonfarmers. If we compare the chance of government and party officials’ children with that of farmers’ children, the ratio will rise to nearly 18:1. More seriously, the recent boom in higher education has not lessened but, in fact, worsened the structural factors of this inequality. The skyrocketing tuition fee constitutes an escalating fence that keeps the children from low-income, marginalized families away from acquiring higher education.


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