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Institutional Comparisons of the Perceived Value of Networks in China and the United States

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image of Comparative Sociology
For content published from 1960-2001, see International Journal of Comparative Sociology.

Although scholars have long been interested in inter- and intra-national differences in the role of networks in status attainment, most studies focus on either one or the other. This study combines both by asking: how do inter- and intra-national differences affect the perception that networks are important for status attainment? Analyzing data from the World Values Survey (2006), it shows, firstly, that the perceived value of networks is greater in the United States than in China, which is counterintuitive, as it suggests that the effect of ‘guanxi’ culture in China may be overstated. Secondly, the study draws attention to the role of internal variations within the labour markets of both countries: in the United States, networks are perceived to be more important in the public sector than in the private sector; in China, networks are perceived to be equally important in both sectors. I offer a range of institutional explanations for these differences by invoking concepts such as ‘liberal market economy’ and ‘political patronage’ for the United States and, ‘institutional holes’ and ‘political technocracy’ for China.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Sociology, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, National University of SingaporeAS1, #04-27, 11 Arts Link, Singapore


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