Micro-Level Experiences of Macro-Level Change: A Cohort Perspective on Urban China’s De-Emphasis of State Sector Employment

Wen Fan, University of Minnesota
Fangsheng Zhu, Harvard University

Based on occupational histories collected from a nationally representative sample, we examine micro-level experiences of macro-level change in the form of attainment of a state-sector first job and shifts from state to non-state sector jobs across four cohorts in China who entered the labor market in distinct historical periods from 1949 to 2003. We find cohort variations in the changing impact of structural location. For example, a high school degree offers the least advantage of entering the state sector for members of the Cultural Revolution cohort, while the disincentive to leave state employment provided by housing benefits was weakened for Cultural Revolution and the Late Reform cohorts. The propensity to shift sectors of three elite groups – educational elite, political elite, and dual elite – is also contingent on cohort membership. Our life course approach captures different cohorts’ career/life stages and corollary experiences at the time of macro-level political/economic changes.

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 Presented in Session P8. Economy, Labor Force, Education, and Inequality/Gender, Race and Ethnicity