Date of Completion


Embargo Period



Hukou, Class, Stratification, Inequality, China

Major Advisor

Michael E. Wallace

Associate Advisor

Jeremy Pais

Associate Advisor

Simon Cheng

Associate Advisor

Mary J. Fischer

Associate Advisor

David Weakliem

Field of Study



Doctor of Philosophy

Open Access

Open Access


China has experienced a massive transformation over the past four decades. As China moves towards marketization and capitalism, scholars disagree over whether state or market mechanisms play a more prominent role in transitional China. The state-centered perspective emphasizes the continuing power of the socialist state in the transitional period, while the market-centered perspective highlights the rise of market forces in the capitalist economy. Building upon the market transition debate, this dissertation investigates the relative influence of state forces, which is represented by the longstanding hukou system, and market forces, which is represented by the emerging class structure in the determination of three stratification outcomes in transitional China: earnings, housing, and bad jobs. Moreover, the uneven pace of the market transition over the last 40 years has intensified three major divides in Chinese society––the fault lines of Inland-Coastal regional distinction, the urban-rural distinction, and state-market distinction. Accordingly, I further examine how hukou and class affect each stratification outcome while considering the influence of one of these fault lines. More specifically, the analysis on earnings focuses on the Inland-Coastal divide, housing on the urban-rural divide, and bad jobs on the state-market divide. Given the complexity of the evolving hukou system in the transitional periods, I develop a typology of hukou stratification with nine categories based on four dimensions. Moreover, I construct a 23-category class scheme for transitional China combining Wright’s 12-class framework of Western capitalist societies and on the characteristics embedded in China’s historical social structure in the pre-reform era. Using the 2008-2013 Chinese General Social Survey, I apply fixed-effects ordinary least squares regression, logistic regression, Poisson regression, and sheaf coefficients to investigate the effects of hukou stratification and class structure on workers’ earnings, housing, and job quality. Overall, in this period of transitional China, hukou and class, the two main stratification systems representing state and market forces, both have significant effects on all the three outcomes of earnings, housing, and bad jobs. However, the effects of hukou and class differ for each outcome and vary across the Inland and Coastal regions, urban and rural areas, and state and market sectors.

Available for download on Tuesday, August 05, 2025