Getting Ahead in Urban China

  • Lin N
  • Bian Y
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This article argues that structural segmentation is a universal phenomenon in all complex societies and across political economies. Each political economy uses specific criteria in delineating segments of its economic and work organizations. Furthermore, it is argued that segmentation identification constitutes a critical destination status for individuals engaged in the status-attainment process. A representative sample of the working population in Tianjin, China, is analyzed to show that entrance into the core sectors (state agencies and enterprises), rather that the job per se, constitutes the primary goal of status attainment. Entering into a more desirable work-unit sector in China takes on differential significance and process for males and females. Formales, the direct effect of intergenerational factors (i.e., the effect of father's work-unit sector) is evident. For females, such an effect is only indirect; instead, to a great extent, their status attainment. Also, upward occupational mobility across sectors (from the peripheral to the core) between first and current jobs is substantially greater among male workers (oven 60%) than among female workers (20%). Likewise, males benefit more from social resources (the use of social contacts and their resources) in the job search than females. These findings shed light on the significance of political economy in defining statuses and the viability of the industrialization-attainment thesis. They also point to other oerating processes that transcend the effects of political economy or industrialization. Specifically, these explanatory schemes do not yet prove adequate in accounting for gender differences and the use of social resources in the status-attainment process.

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  • Nan Lin

  • Yanjie Bian

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