This paper looks at social mobility in China
and Britain. It explores whether the rapid economic
development in China in the last thirty years has brought
its mobility closer to that in Britain. It also examines the
effects of China’s household registration system (hukou) on
people’s mobility chances. Using national representative
surveys in the two countries, we found a convergence in
total mobility in the two countries but higher levels of
inequality in China in terms of relative mobility. Chinese
women faced the greatest disadvantages. The prime driver
for social inequality in China was the hukou system.
Rural people in China had very limited opportunities
for education but even those who had similar levels of
education were still very much hampered by the hukou
penalty in trying to gain access to advantaged positions.
Both societies are highly unequal but China has an
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