Hostname: page-component-5d59c44645-klj7v Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-02-20T15:58:33.545Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

College is a Rich, Han, Urban, Male Club: Research Notes from a Census Survey of Four Tier One Colleges in China*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  25 June 2013

Xiaobing Wang
Chinese Academy of Sciences.
Chengfang Liu
Chinese Academy of Sciences.
Linxiu Zhang*
Chinese Academy of Sciences.
Yaojiang Shi
Northwest University (Xi'an).
Scott Rozelle
Stanford University.
Email: (corresponding author).


The opportunity to attend college and earn a degree has increased dramatically in China. However, that does not mean that everyone has an equal opportunity. Historically, there has been well-documented systematic discrimination against minorities, women and the rural poor. The main question of this paper is whether or not this discrimination has persisted since the recent expansion of China's tertiary education system. Using a census of incoming freshmen from four tier one universities, this paper assesses if certain types of students are over-represented while other types of students are under-represented. Comparing the shares of students from different socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds from our primary survey data with government generated census statistics, we conclude that poor, minority and rural female students are systematically under-represented. In contrast, rich, Han, urban males are dominant in college.

Research Report
Copyright © The China Quarterly 2013 

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)



The authors would like to acknowledge the funding support from National Natural Sciences of China (71110107028) and the Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, CAS (Grant: 2012RC102).


Hannum, Emily. 2005. “Market transition, education disparities, and family strategies in rural China: New evidence on gender stratification and development.” Demography 42(2), 275299.Google Scholar
Hannum, Emily, and Park, Albert, 2007. “Academic achievement and engagement in rural China.” In Hannum, Emily and Park, Albert (eds). Education and Reform in China. New York: Routledge, 154172.Google Scholar
Hannum, Emily, Behrman, Jere, Wang, Meiyan, and Liu, Jihong. 2008. “Education in the reform era.” In Brandt, Loren and Rawski, Thomas G. (eds.), China's Great Economic Transformation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 215249.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hawkins, John, Jacob, James and Li, Wenli. 2009. “Higher education in China: access, equity, and equality.” In Holsinger, Donald and Jacob, James (eds.), Inequality in Education: Comparative and International Perspectives, 215239.Google Scholar
Kipnis, Andrew. 2001. “The disturbing educational discipline of peasants.” The China Journal 46, 124.Google Scholar
Lai, Fang. 2010. “Are boys left behind? The evolution of the gender achievement gap in Beijing's middle schools.” Economics of Education Review 29 (3), 383–99.Google Scholar
Li, Hongbin. 2011. “China's universities at the turn of the century.” Paper presented at Stanford University, California, January 2011.Google Scholar
Mather, Mark, and Adams, Dia. 2007. “The crossover in female and male college enrollment rates.” Population Reference Bureau report, Scholar
MOE (Ministry of Education) 2008. Educational Statistics Yearbook of China. Beijing: People's Education Press.Google Scholar
NBS (National Bureau of Statistics of China). 1998. China Statistical Yearbook. Beijing: China Statistics Press.Google Scholar
NBS. 2003. The Tabulation on Nationalities of 2000 Population Census of China. Beijing: Ethnic Publishing House.Google Scholar
NBS. 2007. China's Population and Employment Statistical Yearbook. Beijing: China Statistics Press.Google Scholar
NBS. 2008. China's Population and Employment Statistical Yearbook. Beijing: China Statistics Press.Google Scholar
NBS. 2009. China Statistical Yearbook. Beijing: China Statistics Press.Google Scholar
Postiglione, Gerard. 2009. “The education of ethnic minority groups in China” In Banks, James (ed.), The Routledge International Companion to Multicultural Education, New York and London: Routledge, 501511.Google Scholar
State Council. 1999. “Action Plan for Invigorating Education in the 21st Century.” Beijing: State Council Information Office.Google Scholar
Zhao, Yaohui. 2007. “Labor migration and returns to rural education in China.” American Journal of Agricultural Economics 79 (4), 1278–287.Google Scholar
Zhou, Xuegang, Moen, Phyllis and Tuma, Nancy. 1998. “Educational stratification in urban China: 1949–94.” Sociology of Education 71 (3), 199222.Google Scholar
Zhu, Zhiyong. 2010. “Higher education access and equality among ethnic minorities in China.” Chinese Education and Society 43 (1), 1223.CrossRefGoogle Scholar