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16. Understanding the Social Inequality System and Family and Household Dynamics in China

图书名称:Re-Drawing Boundaries: Work, Households, and Gender in China
图书作者:Barbara Entwisle and Gail E. Henderson    ISBN:
出版社:Berkeley: University of California Press    出版日期:2000年

Nan Lin

The two critical aspects of the analysis of social inequality are: (1) what are the meaningful rewards in a particular society (e.g., housing, income, family and household resources, health and nutrition); and (2) what factors account for the system of social inequality (rewards) and the placement of individuals, households, and families in that system? The former issue concerns dimensions of social stratification and will be touched on lightly here. (See also works by others on China's stratification system, e.g., Bian 1994b; Bian and Logan 1986; Lin and Bian 1991; Nee 1989; Parish 1984a; Walder 1992b; Walder 1995a; Whyte and Parish 1984.) This chapter focuses on the latter—that is, factors leading to the placement or rewards of social actors in a system of social inequality—and suggests that social inequality results from joint and interactive effects of structural constraints/opportunities and choices of social actors. These propositions are universal in that they suggest where researchers might locate variables that affect the placement of actors in a system of social inequality but do not indicate exactly which variables, or how these variables affect the outcome (placement or rewards).

The specification of variables and types of joint and interactive effects, I argue, is particularistic—that is, particular to time and place. For a given society at a given time, certain variables at the structural level are related to constraints and/or opportunities, and under these constraints/opportunities different types of households, families, or individuals formulate and respond with meaningful choices to attain placement and rewards in the social inequality process. One can imagine these constraints/opportunities along a continuum. At one extreme, structural constraints are so complete as to render choices meaningless. In a total war regime, for example, state policies dictate that every actor is assigned a place in the social hierarchy. At the other extreme would conceivably be a system that has absolutely no structural constraints (total laissez faire), where actors are free to make all choices in maximizing their rewards—perhaps, a utopian liberal capitalism. In actuality, rationalized needs for social stability and social mobility mean that placement and rewards in a social inequality system are based on some combination of constraints and opportunities. Structural constraints are exercised to maintain social order, while structural opportunities are provided so that actors gain or feel rewarded for their choices (efforts). For a given society and time, the researcher must identify structural constraints/opportunities and meaningful choices that explain, as much as possible, the placement or mobility of actors in that social inequality system. Such valued resources can be identified through research on the opinions of the actors themselves. Hypotheses derived from a particular society and time can then be subjected to analysis and verification. This process is open-ended; only through multiple hypotheses can we assess the relative credibility of the variables and hypothesized effects. Nonetheless, alternative and even competing hypotheses are also meaningful as long as the specific placement or rewards are seen as valued resources for the actors under study.

I propose here a particular causal model to examine the process by which structural and choice factors jointly and interactively determine the returns for actors in a social inequality system. This model (fig. 16.1) can be illustrated more concretely with specific hypotheses based on the empirical Chinese situation.

MODEL OF CAPITALIZATION

In the case of China, at least up until the mid-1990s, the state imposed a broad range of constraints on household, family, and individual locations in the society. These included constraints on residential location (whether a household was registered as urban, county, or rural), work location (whether a person worked in the state, collective, or private sector), industrial location of labor (especially whether the work was in the agricultural or nonagricultural sector), and family size (the one-child family policy). Each placement had consequences for income; access to social, cultural, and economic resources (quality of schools; quality and price of goods; access to utilities; access to transportation and communication facilities; quality of environments; access to tickets to sports and entertainment events, bath houses, etc.); and benefits for family and household members (quality of jobs, finding marriage partners, etc.).

Under these structural constraints, can choices by actors (whether households, families, or individual actors) make a difference? Research suggests that indeed they can. Actors in China invest in and mobilize a variety of resources to gain better placements in the social inequality system, either by increasing their chances for more legitimate placements (e.g., actors transferring to a higher-ranked work unit) or by circumventing the structural constraints for better rewards (e.g., rural laborers working in urban areas).

We may define the process of investing in and mobilizing resources as capitalization. The invested and mobilized resources become capital in the process of gaining better placements or rewards. Two types of capital can be identified: human capital and social capital. Human capital results from capitalization of time, efforts, and resources (individual and family) to acquire skills and knowledge useful for better placement (occupation, industry, work unit, and income). Typically, human capital includes education, training, and work experiences (Becker 1993; Mincer and Higuchi 1988; T. W. Schultz 1961). Social capital results from capitalization of time, efforts, and resources to cultivate and use other actors who are better placed or positioned for information and influence (Bourdieu 1980; Burt 1992; J. Coleman 1988, 1990; Lin 1982, 1995, 2000). In the Chinese context, social capital typically includes social connections (guanxi) and networks (including indirect ties) and the embedded resources (Lin 1995, 2000).

Human capital and social capital not only are important factors in their own right, but also interact reciprocally: human capital promotes social capital, and social capital increases human capital. As an actor gains human capital (e.g., education), it increases his or her chance to be linked to other actors with better human capital. Through these links, the human and social capital of these others become the social capital of the original actor. Further, an actor's increased human capital increases the chances of other family/household members to gain human capital (e.g., a sibling or child going to a better school) (Becker 1991; T. P. Schultz 1995; T. W. Schultz 1974). Increased human capital of other family/household members becomes part of the family/household human capital, and their increased social capital becomes part of the family/household social capital.

Likewise, social capital broadens the pool of capital available to an individual and creates opportunities to gain better human capital (J. Coleman 1988) (e.g., through the help of his or her boss, an individual is able to attend a training program or study abroad). Social connections and their resources are indeed very important in the development of all human capital: they help in getting into better schools (e.g., for children of alumni or big donors) and in getting better jobs (e.g., with chances for promotion).

The development of human and social capital is not entirely the result of choices and actions. In fact, to a large extent, their development is constrained by the structure. In China this is quite apparent. Urban families, for instance, are subject to stricter implementation of the one-child family policy. On the other hand, rural residents are denied many opportunities that are available to urban residents. Their children cannot go to better (“key”) schools; their health services are less adequate; adults are not likely to work in state-owned work units; they have fewer on-the-job training opportunities, and so forth. Similar constraints and opportunities differentially exist in political, religious, economic, social, and other spheres. Once located in a particular segment of the population, certain constraints and opportunities almost automatically apply. Thus for a long time children of “bad elements” (e.g., former Nationalist Party members [Guomindang], former capitalists) were denied opportunities to compete for better schools, jobs, or Communist Party membership.

These constraints, however, set boundaries rather than eliminate choices. Within a set of constraints, options and choices remain. For instance, rural youths may break through the urban-rural divide by competing for entrance into urban colleges or joining the army officer corps. These channels legitimize possible relocation to jobs in urban areas (official migration) so that their skills and knowledge are better applied and their achievements rewarded. In recent years, unofficial or temporary migration has also become increasingly available as an option for rural residents. (See part 3 of this volume.)

In any event, structural opportunities/constraints, human capital, and social capital are expected jointly and interactively to lead to the development of another type of capital—institutional capital (Lin 1994). Institutional capital is the capital of mobilizable resources embedded in work units, organizations, party apparatus, work sectors, and occupations. Institutional capital reinforces the dominant values and rules of the society. Capturing it requires entering and becoming part of these organizations, and the chance of entering these organizations depends on a combination of human and social capital. As described above, human capital and social capital provide the skills and knowledge for performing specific jobs and tasks, and also the recognition (or “misrecognition”) and acceptance of the society's dominant values (Bourdieu and Passeron 1977). Under the current regime in China we expect that degrees and diplomas from better schools and colleges as well as better social connections will increase the likelihood of entering into better work units (state-owned work units, higher-ranked work units, institutes and agencies rather than enterprises, etc.), better jobs, authority positions, and places in the Party apparatus. Thus, human capital, social capital, and institutional capital jointly and interactively lead to better returns in areas such as income, housing arrangements, physical and mental health, and other family and household resources.

ENGAGING THEORY AND RESEARCH

This capitalization model incorporates concepts and propositions quite salient in current intellectual debates in sociology, economics, anthropology, and political science. Various neocapital theories (such as human capital, cultural capital, social capital, and institutional capital) have borrowed the original macrolevel concept of capital from classical Marxist theory and applied it to individual actors (Lin in press [chap. 1]). In its original definition, capital is what is produced when surplus value is appropriated from one class for the benefit of another. The newer view argues that all actors can make choices to generate capital and keep it for their own benefits. This reconceptualization makes it possible to construct propositions that are more consistent with many contemporary empirical systems. Thus, for instance, “labor” can expect to extract and keep salaries and benefits so that they can also enjoy leisure and pleasure, as is evident in most societies.

Neocapital theories do not assert that everyone can capitalize equally, nor do they claim that everyone benefits equally from capitalization. In fact, every neocapital theory recognizes the salience of a social structure as a system of social inequality. Individuals are differentially placed in the system to receive unequal rewards. “Structural” effects—the constraints and opportunities differentially given to different segments of the population—may be political (orchestrated by the state), economic (imposed by the capitalist), or social (enforced by the caste, the belief system, or related to ethnicity, gender, etc.). Yet, each theory assumes that actions by actors remain meaningful so that mobility in the social inequality system is possible. In fact, mobility is essential for a society to survive as a stable system, for the lack of it is the necessary and, some would say, sufficient condition for the formation of class consciousness and class conflict leading to the society's demise (Lin 1982).

If this line of theorizing has some validity, the question then becomes: how does a society balance “stability” with individual choices and rewards?[1] The model proposed in figure 16.1 suggests places to look for relevant variables and possible relationships among them. The remainder of this chapter draws from material in chapters 8, 14, and 15 in this book as well as my own work to illustrate how the model integrates empirical findings.

STRUCTURAL AND SOCIAL CAPITAL EFFECTS ON HOUSING DECISIONS

In chapter 14 Davis presents two arguments: (1) that household size is very much driven by family size, and (2) that this relationship is constrained by state policies (regimes) on housing as well as on family size. Thus, when state policies restricted housing construction and household size for a family, there was little opportunity for individual family members to influence their household sizes. When the policy changed so that the housing market became somewhat privatized and state-and collective-owned housing could be purchased by individuals below market values, then members of a family gained the opportunity to determine household size.

However, the relaxation of the housing restrictions was juxtaposed with the imposition of the one-child policy, which restricts family size at the next generation. On the surface, this would add freedom to the determination of household size, since declining family size would reduce the need for larger households. With emerging availability of more and better housing units and less pressing demand of family size, it seems that housing would no longer be a critical issue for a family. Using the model in the appendix, structural factors (policies regarding housing) of the past constrained the returns (housing arrangements for families); when such factors changed, opportunities became available for reconfiguring housing arrangements.

Yet Davis shows in her case that another factor, the desire to reside with married sons rather than married daughters, often creates tension among family members faced with the need to reconfigure households. She shows that sons remain the ones who will “inherit” (or purchase) their parents' homes. Parents also are very concerned about equity in household divisions among sons (but not daughters). For example, if family were of no concern, the parents in case 1 in Davis's chapter would not be distressed; they would present no option to their second son, but simply ask him to take the housing in Pudong. The second son pushes his parents to move precisely because he realizes that his parents want to be equitable to both their sons. The entire narrative reflects family dynamics and family strategizing, not individual strategizing. In case 2, the father refuses to even consider moving in with his daughter's mother-in-law because of the traditional concern about losing face by not living with one's sons. Again, son preference and family pressure are clearly at work.

Davis shows, first, that structural factors have a direct effect on family size (itself a structural factor, but at a more micro level) in urban China. Second, family size has a direct effect on household arrangements and decisions—a measure of distribution of household/family resources. Finally, yet another important force, social capital, intervenes in the process in the form of the traditional valuing of the male line. This factor distorts the expected effects of state policies on housing decisions. Despite the opportunities allowed by relaxed state policies on housing and smaller family size, the decision about housing remains a collective (family) decision-making process rather than an individual choice.

STRUCTUR AL EFFECTS ON THE DEVELOPMENT OF HOUSEHOLD HUMAN CAPITAL

Chapter 15 by Entwisle, Short, Zhai, and Ma deals with the economic dimensions of household division of labor. Two concepts guide the analysis: diversification (different household members engage in different sectors) and specialization (all household members work in a single sector). The authors find that households tend to diversify less (household members are likely to work in the same sector) and specialize more (each member is likely to confine his or her work to the same sector). This model in effect argues that structural constraints/opportunities (urban/rural, agricultural/ nonagricultural, and gender factors) have an impact on the development of household human capital (specialization and diversification).

The findings illustrate the impact of structure (state policies), including (1) segmented household registrations and restricted work mobility between urban and rural areas, (2) agricultural versus nonagricultural segmentation in rural areas, and (3) concentration of state-owned agencies, institutes, and enterprises in urban areas. Because of the lack of mobility between urban and rural areas, residents in urban areas tend to concentrate on getting and staying in jobs in the state sector, for the sake of security and benefits (housing, for example). On the other hand, rural residents are trying to move to the nonagricultural sector to increase their income (see chap. 8). It is not surprising, therefore, to find more specialization and less diversification in urban household work activities and less specialization and more diversification in rural household work activities. These are rational choices made within the constraints of the state policies.

If we follow the model in the appendix, we should expect returns to the differential development of household human capital. That is, we would expect this model to extend to the next causal sequence: differential household capital (specialization and diversification) should generate differential returns (e.g., household incomes). Further, we would expect this relationship to be contingent on the structural context (differential effects of household capital on returns for urban versus rural households, agricultural versus nonagricultural households, etc.). Thus, this sort of model not only places an empirical work in a conceptual framework, but also points out directions where the empirical work should be extended.

GENDER AS A STRUCTUR AL CONSTR AINT

The model in the appendix can also be used to study and understand the differential interplay between structural constraints/opportunities and actions (capitalization) for different segments of the population. In the case of gender, we ask: Do structural constraints/opportunities differ for males and females? If so, how? What are the consequences for men and women in their development of human and social capital, in their acquisition of institutional capital, and finally, in the returns of their capital? To my knowledge, no single study conducted in China provides answers to all these questions, but we can piece together data from various studies to begin to understand these processes.

Evidence from chapter 8 by Michelson and Parish, based on data from rural areas, suggests that women are more likely to be working on farms as men seek out nonagricultural work. Is this a choice or a structural constraint? My own fieldwork suggests that structure in part explains this differentiation (Lin 1995; Lin and Chen 1999). Many new enterprises, while employing a significant number of women workers, are run almost exclusively by men. In many villages married women are sent home when they have children, even if they have been working in the factories. Given these structural barriers, women resort to taking care of the land assigned to their families to continue to be productive. In urban areas, many work units are just as blatant in excluding women workers. The work units can and do publicly announce that they will not hire women because their careers will be interrupted when they become pregnant and mothers, because they are physically not strong enough, and because they do not have the necessary stamina or attention or commitment. As a result, women tend to concentrate in work units that are not at the top of the authority hierarchy (the institutes, the service industries) and undertake professional (scientist, technician, nursing) or clerical (sales) jobs. These jobs do not offer many chances to move in the hierarchical system, and without opportunities to move to authority positions that permit delayed retirements, women tend to leave or retire earlier than men—a self-fulfilling prophecy. (See chap. 7 for data from Tianjin that demonstrates the importance of different age at retirement for gender differences in wages.)

How do men and women differ in acquiring human capital and social capital? Studies have shown that in urban areas, men and women have achieved equity in educational attainment (Lin 1994). In rural areas, while men stay in school longer than women, the gap is fairly small (chap. 8). This is a result not of structural support for women, but of men's response to better opportunities to generate returns—going into private enterprise or becoming entrepreneurs.

Assuming men and women have attained educational equity, do they acquire institutional capital likewise equally? The answer is no. Using 1991 data from Beijing, Shanghai, and Tianjin, I found that men are more likely to enter higher-ranked work units, gain authority positions, and become Party members after controlling for human capital (Lin 1994). When seeking jobs, men seem to be able to find better social connections to help them (social capital) than women (Lin and Bian 1991). This differentiation appears to result from a combination of factors: (1) parents tend to locate better helpers to find jobs for their sons than for their daughters (a selective investment in social capital), and (2) helpers seem to work harder for a male job-seeker than a female job-seeker (helpers with similar resources tend to find better jobs for men than for women). This selective investment in social capital by the helper may be because help on behalf of a son is more appreciated than on behalf of a daughter, incurring greater social debt for the job-seekers' parents to the helper. The ultimate consequences are that capitalization generates unequal returns for men and women.

INSTITUTIONAL TRANSFORMATION AND ITS CONSEQUENCES

The model in the appendix helps guide the research plan, design, identification and measurement of variables, and analyses. It can also guide analysis of the effects of institutional transformations. As China undergoes policy changes toward a market economy and more decentralized relationships between the central government and enterprises, how might these changes impact the development of human and social capital? Would they increase the value of human capital, if we assume that a stronger effect of human capital is expected on returns in the social inequality system guided by market principles? Would they decrease the value of social capital, if we assume a weakened effect of connections on returns in such an emerging system? And most important, how might these changes affect the investment in and return on institutional capital? Would the emergence of nonstate, non collective enterprises based on market and competition principles erode the values of existing institutional capital? And how would these changes affect the investment of human capital and social capital on institutional capital (e.g., less likelihood of entering state-owned work units, joining the Party, etc.)?

With data from surveys of representative samples of adults from three cities (Beijing, Tianjin, and Shanghai) in 1991, I conducted cohort studies for those entering the labor force during 1949–65, 1966–77, 1978–81, and 1982–91 (Lin 1994). Assuming that urban policy changes took place after 1982, we should expect to find different patterns among human capital, institutional capital, and returns (monthly earnings) between the last cohort (1982–91) and the previous three cohorts. (I did not have measures for social capital in this study.) The results show that for the last cohort, as compared to previous cohorts, educational attainment was influenced more by parental education than by characteristics of parental work unit and Party membership. Gender differentiation on educational attainment decreased for the last cohort. This suggests that education is becoming an investment by parents in the development of human capital rather than institutional capital. Also of interest was the finding that while education remained a significant factor in attaining a position for the last three cohorts, the impact of Party membership, salient in the first two of these three cohorts (1966–76 and 1977–81), disappeared for the last cohort (1982–91). Gender remained a significant factor for attaining authority positions throughout, however. Regarding current wages, education became a significant factor for the last cohort, while gender, important for the previous three cohorts, disappeared. Party membership remained an important factor for getting better wages as each cohort first entered the labor force (measured as wage for the first job).

Thus there is evidence of institutional capital eroding somewhat in the last period examined. Of special interest is the possible “decoupling” of Party membership and authority positions. While this trend is consistent with institutional transformation, persistent gender differentiation suggests that the different institutions may undergo changes at different rates, or even undergo different changes. One possible hypothesis is that the institutional transformations observed in the current era in China apply to political and economic spheres, while institutions of a sociocultural nature (gender) have not kept pace. This study illustrates how the model in the appendix guides analysis for consequences of structural changes but, more importantly, sheds light on where such changes are and are not taking place.

CONCLUDING REMARKS

As many of the chapters in this volume demonstrate, family and household are important social contexts for studying what choices are available and what actions are possible in the changing context of contemporary China. This chapter employs a general model to guide discussion and analysis of social inequality in China: In the attempts of actors in families and households to invest in and mobilize a variety of resources as human and social capital, and to gain institutional advantages and better returns, which structural factors impose constraints and which afford opportunities? It is clear that state policies have differentially influenced the ability of population groups to make appropriate capitalization and gain returns under prevailing institutions. As these policies change, not only will the types and extent of structural constraints and opportunities change, the social context will likewise change its meaning for individuals attempting to capitalize resources and generate returns.

At the same time, an individual is also bound by social—especially familial—resources and obligations. With regard to investing resources and capital, action will be taken and choices made in the context of these more enduring social relations and networks. Under changing policies, the aim will be to optimize gains for individual actors and, equally important, to maintain returns to these social units as well. How these changes will affect the social construction and meaning of households is an important key to understanding social inequality as China enters the next century.

 
 

APPENDIX A Model of Capitalization to Generate Returns in a Social Inequality System




NOTE

1. C. H. Tung, the designated chief administrator of Hong Kong, made it clear in a January 1997 press conference that he was in favor of “social order” over “individual freedom” in formulating new policies and abolishing other policies as Hong Kong prepared to return to China. The structural reality is such that for him to say or do otherwise would lead to loss of his capitalization and rewards in the forthcoming new order of social inequality.

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