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Cultural reproduction or cultural mobility?: a study on the inequality of college students’ educational achievements in China

ZHU Bin1

(1.Center for Studies of Sociological Theory & Method, Renmin University of China)

【Abstract】Using data from the Beijing College Students Panel Survey (BCSPS), this paper examined class differences in college students’ educational achievements in China. The results show that the elite families’ offspring are more likely to become student cadres and have better language ability. However, they attain lower academic scores. This is because the cultural reproduction mechanism is greatly weakened in the standardized system and students from the lower class are able to obtain good academic scores with their own efforts. Compared with academic achievement, standards for electing student cadres are more open and subjective, and social origin plays an important role. Furthermore, students from the elite class families benefit from their cultural capital much more than their counterparts from the lower class families. This result supports the cultural reproduction theory.

【Keywords】 cultural reproduction; cultural resistance; cultural mobility; educational achievement; inequality of educational opportunity;


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    [1]. This paper is revised based on a chapter in the author’s doctoral thesis. Thanks to doctoral supervisor, professor Li lulu for his long-term and thoughtful guidance. Thanks to the anonymous reviewers for their valuable suggestions. This paper is the result of the “Education Stratified Research in Contemporary China” project (17XNF028) of the Scientific Research Fund of Renmin University of China (the special fund for basic scientific research of central universities). [^Back]

    [2]. ① Thanks to professors Feng Shizheng, Wang Weidong and Li Ding for their generosity in providing the research data. [^Back]

    [3]. ② For detailed information about the survey, please refer to the Report on Chinese College Students 2014 (Li, 2014). [^Back]


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This Article


CN: 11-1100/C

Vol 33, No. 01, Pages 142-168+245

January 2018


Article Outline



  • 1 Research questions
  • 2 Theoretical comparison: cultural reproduction, cultural resistance and cultural mobility
  • 3 Research hypotheses
  • 4 Research method
  • 5 Analysis results
  • 6 Discussion and conclusion
  • Footnote