2/9: Penn CEAS to host a talk by Xiaogang Wu, NYU and NYU Shanghai: “Higher Education and Social Stratification in Contemporary China: Family Origins and Changing Returns to College Education”

Issues in Contemporary East Asia: “Higher Education and Social Stratification in Contemporary China: Family Origins and Changing Returns to College Education”

Xiaogang Wu, NYU Shanghai 

Thursday, February 9, 2023 – 5:15pm, Fisher-Bennett Hall 231 (3340 Walnut Street)

Click HERE to Register


The expansion of higher education and its impact on social stratification has increasingly received attention among stratification scholars. A classic question is “whether a college degree is still the great equalizer?” We investigate this issue through two related projects in the context of China’s higher education expansion since 1999. In the first project we analyze the data from a series of nationally representative surveys from 1996 to 2015, and shows the “true” college premium is rather small for the post-expansion cohort, and that the college premium after the expansion declines more for rural-origin children with schooling probabilities in the top percentiles than for their urban counterparts. The second analyzes the data from Beijing College Students Panel Survey (2009-2013) to estimate the returns to elite college education (Peking University and Tsinghua University). We employ a fuzzy regression discontinuity design to address the selection bias, and reveal that the causal effect of an elite college degree on earnings is significant only for students from advantaged family background, and cultural capital plays an important role in generating such outcomes. We highlight the importance of social processes in understanding how educational expansion affects return to (elite) college education and how such effects vary among people of different family origins.

Xiaogang Wu is Professor of Sociology at New York University, and Yufeng Global Professor of Social Science, Head of Social Science Area, Director of the Center for Applied Social and Economic Research (CASER) at NYU Shanghai. From 2003 to 2020, he taught at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, where he was Chair Professor of Social Science and Public Policy. Dr. Wu’s research interests include social stratification and mobility, education, urban sociology, survey and quantitative methods. He has published over 70 peer-reviewed journal articles and now is the Editor-in-Chief of the Chinese Sociological Review (2162-0555 [print]; 2162-0563 [web]).

See up-to-date information on this talk at the CEAS website.