Education and Stratification

Dalton Conley • Thomas J. Espenshade • Patricia Fernández-Kelly • Susan Fiske • Margaret Frye • Jean Grossman • Jackelyn Hwang • Douglas S. Massey • Alejandro Portes • Marta Tienda • Yu Xie


In Dalton Conley’s paper, “Swapping and the Social Psychology of Disadvantaged American Populations,” published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology, Conley observed class gradients in cognitive frameworks cause or effect of those socioeconomic differences? This question is of critical importance not just for policymakers and psychologists but for all social scientists, including market researchers. The question is all the more salient today as economic and behavioral disparities have seemingly widened in tandem over the last few decades. This commentary offers various theories for this observed correlation within the context of recent psychological and sociological scholarship.


Dalton Conley, Okbay, A. (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam), Beauchamp, J. (University of Toronto), Fontana, M. (Hospital for Special Surgery), Lee, J., (University of Minnesota Twin Cities), Pers, T. (Boston Childrens Hospital, Harvard Medical School) et al. contributed to the study, “Genome-Wide Association Study Identifies 74 Loci Associated with Educational Attainment,” published in Nature. Educational attainment (EA) is strongly influenced by social and other environmental factors, but genetic factors are also estimated to account for at least 20% of the variation across individuals. The authors report the results of a genome-wide association study (GWAS) for EA that extends their earlier discovery sample of 101,069 individuals to 293,723 individuals, and a replication in an independent sample of 111,349 individuals from the U.K. Biobank. They now identify 74 genome-wide significant loci associated with number of years of schooling completed. Single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) associated with educational attainment are disproportionately found in genomic regions regulating gene expression in the fetal brain. Candidate genes are preferentially expressed in neural tissue, especially during the prenatal period, and enriched for biological pathways involved in neural development. Their findings demonstrate that, even for a behavioral phenotype that is mostly environmentally determined, a well-powered GWAS identifies replicable associated genetic variants that suggest biologically relevant pathways. Because EA is measured in large numbers of individuals, it will continue to be useful as a proxy phenotype in efforts to characterize the genetic influences of related phenotypes, including cognition and neuropsychiatric disease.


The Bell Curve Revisited: Testing Controversial Hypotheses with Molecular Genetic Data, was published by Dalton Conley and Domingue, B. (Stanford University) in Sociological Science. In 1994, the publication of Herrnstein’s and Murray’s The Bell Curve resulted in a social science maelstrom of responses. In the present study, the authors argue that Herrnstein’s and Murray’s assertions were made prematurely, on their own terms, given the lack of data available to test the role of genotype in the dynamics of achievement and attainment in U.S. society. Today, however, the scientific community has access to at least one dataset that is nationally representative and has genome-wide molecular markers. Conley and Domingue deploy those data from the Health and Retirement Study in order to test the core series of propositions offered by Herrnstein and Murray in 1994. First, they ask whether the effect of genotype is increasing in predictive power across birth cohorts in the middle twentieth century. Second, they ask whether assortative mating on relevant genotypes is increasing across the same time period. Finally, they ask whether educational genotypes are increasingly predictive of fertility (number ever born [NEB]) in tandem with the rising (negative) association of educational outcomes and NEB. The answers to these questions are mostly no; while molecular genetic markers can predict educational attainment, they find little evidence for the proposition that we are becoming increasingly genetically stratified.


Thomas Espenshade is the principal investigator for The New Jersey Families Study. Families are small schools, and parents are children’s first teachers. Every child in America is being home schooled in the sense that children’s expectations, aspirations, and early abilities are shaped at home. Their behaviors, learned skills and knowledge are forged in the crucible of parent-child interactions. Yet we know surprisingly little about the nature, frequency, or quality of these interactions, because they usually occur out of the public eye and are considered off limits to researchers. In The New Jersey Families Study, the researchers ask: how do families build skills in their young, preschool children and help them get ready to learn? Their study features a highly innovative “video ethnography.” They use direct observations of parent-child interactions as a way to deepen our understanding of the contextualized strategies families from a variety of backgrounds and in different social and economic circumstances use to build skills in their young children. They have recruited a small but diverse sample of 12-14 families in the Princeton-Trenton (New Jersey) area that agreed to have two weeks of their daily lives and routines video recorded. Unobtrusive technologies in the form of video cameras placed strategically in up to four rooms in participants’ homes (rooms where most interactions occur) and activated continuously throughout the day and evening will constitute the primary means of data collection. Interactions that hold particular interest are those that are believed to be linked to cognitive and social-emotional development—the amount of reading and talking parents do with children, children’s sleep routines, their diets and nutrition, their exposure to electronic screen time, structure versus chaos at home, and the way that stress outside the home affects parenting practices. Information from the video ethnography is being supplemented by survey, interview, and brief video data collected during six additional contacts with families.

They anticipate that information acquired using these newer technologies will be superior to data collected in more traditional ways, such as interviewing parents about their childrearing behaviors. A video ethnography reduces the social desirability bias that can sometimes surface in survey responses when respondents give answers either to make themselves appear in a more favorable light or that they believe researchers want to hear. Moreover, this newer mode of data collection does not require participants to remember what happened or when. Finally, viewing families in their daily routines has the potential of serendipitously capturing prominent events and behaviors that investigators might not have thought to ask about in standard surveys. The New Jersey Families Study breaks new ground. It is the first time anyone has attempted an in-home naturalistic observation of this breadth, intensity, or duration. Taking a holistic approach to parent-child interactions and filming families in their natural habitats over an extended period will not only help more children to become school-ready. This unprecedented study will also help schools become more “children-ready” and lead to a better appreciation of the daily struggles facing many families.


Thomas Espenshade continues his research in the area of early childhood intervention and leads the Reach Up America project. ReachUp USA is a forward-thinking early childhood intervention, adapted from a highly successful, low-cost, internationally acclaimed program in Jamaica - Reach Up and Learn. Because the return on investment in such interventions is greatest when they begin as early as possible, ReachUp USA serves children beginning in the first year of life. It incorporates best practices from home visiting, the latest research in early childhood development, and technological innovations to deliver a scalable, technology-integrated, and highly cost-effective early childhood intervention for the 21st century.

The researchers know that children can be adversely affected, from the very beginning of their lives, by poverty, substandard housing and unsafe neighborhoods. However, engaging parents very early in their children’s lives, when their brains are developing most rapidly, has been shown to have a significant positive impact on their short- and long-term development and well-being. High-quality early childhood interventions can have long-lasting effects, resulting in higher education and earnings, and reducing incidences of poor health and negative social outcomes. Research consistently shows that the earlier the intervention in vulnerable children’s lives, the more effective the result and the higher the lifetime return on every dollar spent.

By focusing on the earliest stages of child development, ReachUp USA can improve the well-being of disadvantaged children in meaningful ways. And they are building a team of experts and leaders who care deeply about the vulnerabilities and opportunities of early childhood, and who are committed to helping shape the future of early interventions to benefit individuals and society at large.

ReachUp USA is adapting an internationally acclaimed child development curriculum that has been successfully implemented and rigorously tested in diverse cultures around the world (e.g., Jamaica, Colombia, Bangladesh, and China). ReachUp encourages parents to engage in structured play with their children, and helps them learn how to do so effectively, and through those interactions to support their children’s social-emotional and cognitive development. They will use technology to deliver and assess Reachup USA’s services in novel ways – both in connecting with families between visits, and in collecting and evaluating accurate visit data in real time to improve services as they are delivered.


Patricia Fernández-Kelly was a 2016 C. Wright Mills Award finalist (Society for the Study of Social Problems) for her book, “The Hero’s Fight: African Americans in West Baltimore and the Shadow of the State,” which shines light on overlooked communities. Based on ten years of research in West Baltimore during the last decade of the twentieth century, this book provides an intimate account of the experience of adults and children living in one of the nation’s most dejected ghettoes and the effects deindustrialization had on the urban poor. Fernández-Kelly stresses the role of the state in shaping the lives of impoverished populations in inner-city neighborhoods. She shows how ordinary Americans are treated as citizens and consumers but the racially segregated and deprived are seen as objects of surveillance, containment, and punishment. She provides new insights into topics such as globalization and its effects on industrial decline and employment.

In addition to publishing her new book, Patricia Fernández-Kelly is also continuing her research on the making of the Cuban-American working class in Hialeah, Florida.


Susan Fiske's research addresses how stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination are encouraged or discouraged by social relationships, such as cooperation, competition, and power. In cultural surveys, she examines the content of group stereotypes based on race, gender, age, (dis)ability, income, and more, finding patterns in the ways that society views various groups.


Susan Fiske’s chapter, “Categories, Intent and Harm,” was published in the second edition of Social Psychology of Good and Evil, by The Guildford Press. This accessible reference and text addresses some of the most fundamental questions about human behavior, such as what causes racism and prejudice and why good people do bad things. Leading authorities present state-of-the-science theoretical and empirical work. Essential themes include the complex interaction of individual, societal, and situational factors underpinning good or evil behavior; the role of moral emotions, unconscious bias, and the self-concept; issues of responsibility and motivation; and how technology and globalization have enabled newer forms of threat and harm.


Susan Fiske and Durante, F. (University of Milano, Italy) co-authored the chapter, “Stereotype Content across Cultures: Variations on a Few Themes,” in Handbook of Advances in Culture and Psychology, published by Oxford University Press. People all over the world make sense of their society’s groups by consulting two perceptions: What is the other’s intent (warm and trustworthy or not), and can the other enact that intent (competent or not)? Distinct stereotypes, prejudices, and discrimination follow from these warmth-by-competence combinations, themselves predicted respectively by perceived competition and status. Evidence supports the stereotypes’ hypothesized antecedents (social structure) and distinct consequences (emotions and behavior). After describing internal validity, the chapter addresses external validity and then moderating variables. Finally, the chapter takes up cultural variation: Collectivist cultures show less in-group favoritism, high-status societies favor themselves on competence, and low-status societies favor themselves on warmth. More unequal societies describe more groups with ambivalence (high on one dimension but low on the other). More equal societies, but also more conflictual societies, show less ambivalence, in an apparently curvilinear peace-ambivalence pattern. The chapter closes with implications and future directions.


Margaret Frye is currently working on three research projects. Descriptions for two of these projects follow in this section. The description for the third research project follows later under the Health and Wellbeing research theme. The first research project uses survey data from 30 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa to examine the relationship between educational composition and marital behavior. In addition to being an attribute of individual women, educational attainment is also an aggregate phenomenon, in that the social meaning of a woman’s educational attainment is dependent on the educational composition of the population in which she lives, particularly the composition of her own birth cohort. For a population in which almost no one has gone to school, five years of schooling might be perceived as a symbol of elite status, whereas in another setting with more widespread access to education, five years of schooling might be a marker of extreme disadvantage. Frye explores how differences in educational composition alter the relationship between individual-level educational attainment and the timing of first marriage for women. She is also examining how educational expansion has shaped marriage markets, focusing on age and educational hypergamy among married couples. This work is a collaboration with Sara Lopus, a postdoctoral fellow in Sociology.


Margaret Frye’s second research project focuses on the recent expansion of higher education in Uganda, which has coincided with a contraction in the labor market. Three decades ago, Uganda had only one university; today, there are more than 40 universities in the country. In the capital of Kampala, the proportion of youth aged 25-29 who completed a post-secondary degree increased from 2 to 29 percent between 1995 and 2010. This increase in enrollment numbers has coincided with efforts to diversify the student population along gender and class lines. Yet this expansion in education has corresponded with a contraction in employment. Uganda currently has Africa’s highest level of youth unemployment: there are enough jobs for only 20% of university graduates each year. As new graduates navigate this virtually jobless economy, what significance does their degree hold for them? What strategies do graduates pursue to maintain their precarious position as part of the elite? And how do class and gender inequalities continue to structure opportunities among graduates in the era of expanded access to universities? This project seeks to address these questions through following a cohort of new graduates during their first year out of college. Thus far, Margaret Frye has conducted 75 interviews with recent college graduates to explore these questions.


Jean Grossman’s current research projects focus Understanding the Effects of Afterschool and Summer Programs on Youth. Evaluating Accelerating Academic Achievement through Standards-Aligned Expanded Learning (2015- ) Grossman is leading a second, larger RCT of Higher Achievement (funded by i3) with co-PIs Leigh Linden (University of Texas) and Carla Herrera. This study uses data from two RCTs to examine the short and long term impacts on students’ college outcomes of participation in Higher Achievement, an academically-oriented four-year expanded learning time program.


Jackelyn Hwang, along with Roberto, E. (Princeton University, Sociology) and Rugh, J. (Brigham Young University), are investigating how rapidly rising immigration, the growth of gentrification, the suburbanization of poverty, and the housing crisis across U.S. metropolitan areas in recent years affects patterns of segregation by race, class, and space. They draw on data from the U.S. Census, the American Community Survey, and the Federal Housing Finance Agency and an innovative measure of segregation to examine how urban transformations are associated with changes in overall segregation levels for racial and ethnic groups by socioeconomic status and the segregation of these groups occurring between and within the suburbs and central cities across metropolitan areas. Some findings will appear in a chapter titled, “Racial Segregation in the Twenty-First Century and the Role of Housing Policy,” in the forthcoming edited volume, Blurred Boundaries, Real Consequences: The Intersection of Public Policy and Race (Louisiana State University Press).


Jackelyn Hwang’s project, Pioneers of Gentrification, examines the role of immigration in the rise of gentrification in the late twentieth century. Analysis of U.S. Census and American Community Survey data over 24 years and field surveys of gentrification in low-income neighborhoods across 23 U.S. cities reveal that most gentrifying neighborhoods were “ global” in the 1970s or became so over time. An early presence of Asians was positively associated with gentrification; and an early presence of Hispanics was positively associated with gentrification in neighborhoods with substantial shares of Blacks and negatively associated with gentrification in cities with high Hispanic growth, where ethnic enclaves were more likely to form. Low-income, predominantly Black neighborhoods and neighborhoods that became Asian and Hispanic destinations remained ungentrified despite the growth of gentrification during the late twentieth century. The findings suggest that the rise of immigration after 1965 brought pioneers to many low-income central-city neighborhoods, spurring gentrification in some neighborhoods and forming ethnic enclaves in others. The article stemming from this project, "Pioneers of Gentrification: Transformation in Global Neighborhoods in Urban America in the Late Twentieth Century," was published in Demography.


In her paper, “The Social Construction of a Gentrifying Neighborhood: Reifying and Redefining Identity and Boundaries in Inequality,” published in the Urban Affairs Review, Jackelyn Hwang draws upon cognitive maps and interviews with 56 residents living in a gentrifying area to examine how residents socially construct neighborhoods. Most minority respondents, regardless of socioeconomic status and years of residency, defined their neighborhood as a large and inclusive spatial area and used a single name and conventional boundaries, invoking the area’s Black cultural history and often directly responding to the alternative way residents defined their neighborhoods. Both long-term and newer white respondents defined their neighborhood as smaller spatial areas and used a variety of names and unconventional boundaries that excluded areas that they perceived to have lower socioeconomic status and more crime. The large and inclusive socially constructed neighborhood was eventually displaced. These findings shed light on how the internal narratives of neighborhood identity and boundaries are meaningfully tied to a broader structure of inequality and shape how neighborhood identities and boundaries change or remain.


Jackelyn Hwang and Lin, J. (Federal Reserve Bank, Philadelphia) published the review article, “What Have We Learned about the Causes of Recent Gentrification?” in Cityscape. The authors document changes in the prevalence of gentrification in downtowns and outlying neighborhoods of small and large metropolitan areas using an SES index that compares census tracts in metropolitan areas by the percentage of residents over age 25 with at least a college degree and average household income. Hwang and Lin identify causal factors of this phenomenon by reviewing the available literature. Their review also reveals additional opportunities for research to expand the scope of factors that contribute to gentrification. They argue that a complete account of the relative contribution of many factors, however, is still elusive because some causal factors of gentrification may be difficult to identify, such as small changes in development activity leading to a change in neighborhood composition and amenities, which could create a “self-sustaining cycle for gentrification in gentrifying neighborhoods.”


With her co-author Ding, L. (Federal Reserve Bank, Philadelphia), Jackelyn Hwang published a research article, “The Consequences of Gentrification: A Focus on Residents’ Financial Health in Philadelphia,” in Cityscape. Considerable debate and controversy continue regarding the effects of gentrification on neighborhoods and the people residing in them. This article draws on a unique largescale consumer credit database to examine the relationship between gentrification and the credit scores of residents in the city of Philadelphia from 2002 to 2014. They find that gentrification is positively associated with changes in residents’ credit scores, on average, for those who stay, and this relationship is stronger for residents in neighborhoods in the more advanced stages of gentrification. Gentrification is also positively associated with credit score changes for less-advantaged residents (those with low credit scores, older residents, longer-term residents, or those without mortgages) if they do not move, though the magnitude of this positive association is smaller than for their more advantaged counterparts. Nonetheless, moving from gentrifying neighborhoods is negatively associated with credit score changes for less-advantaged residents, residents who move to lower-income neighborhoods, and residents who move to any other neighborhoods within the city (instead of outside the city) relative to those who stay. The results demonstrate how the association between gentrification and residents’ financial health is uneven, especially for less-advantaged residents.


In the journal, Regional Science and Urban Economics, Jackelyn Hwang and co-authors Ding, L. (Federal Reserve Bank, Philadelphia) and Divringi, E. (Federal Reserve Bank, Philadelphia) published “Gentrification and Residential Mobility in Philadelphia.” These are their findings from a study using a unique individual-level, longitudinal data set to examine mobility rates and residential destinations of residents in gentrifying neighborhoods during the recent housing boom and bust in Philadelphia. They find that vulnerable residents, those with low credit scores and without mortgages, are generally no more likely to move from gentrifying neighborhoods compared with their counterparts in non-gentrifying neighborhoods. When they do move, however, they are more likely to move to lower-income neighborhoods. Residents in gentrifying neighborhoods at the aggregate level have slightly higher mobility rates, but these rates are largely driven by more advantaged residents. The findings show that there is significant heterogeneity in mobility patterns across residents in gentrifying neighborhoods and suggest that researchers should focus more attention on the quality of residential moves and non-moves for less advantaged residents, rather than mobility rates alone.


Continuing her work on gentrification, Jackelyn Hwang published “While Some Things Change, Some Things Stay the Same: Reflections on the Study of Gentrification,” in City & Community. While gentrification has been studied for more than 50 years now, gentrification seems to have become a hot topic of public concern only in recent years. The growing interest in the phenomenon reflects both its increasing prevalence and its changing nature. The term now conjures up connotations and stylized images of race and class, but these are often inconsistent with scholarly findings of gentrification. These inconsistencies between the past and present and between the public and academic understanding of the phenomenon bring us to an appropriate juncture to reflect on the scholarship on gentrification.

Although gentrification may not be the dominant trend of low-income neighborhoods and is limited in its scope and spatial extent relative to the overall urban landscape, it is nonetheless an important piece of the interdependent structure of cities. Understanding gentrification in the context of a broader urban landscape, in which high poverty neighborhoods and segregation persist and other forms of neighborhood change also occur, can advance research on contemporary gentrification and how race and ethnicity and inequality matter in relation to it. Precision in defining the concept and drawing on scholarship on neighborhood stability and other forms of neighborhood change are necessary for moving us beyond an “empirical stalemate.”


Douglas Massey’s paper “Residential Segregation is the Linchpin of Racial Stratification,” was published by City & Community. Three decades of research have amply confirmed Pettigrew's prescient observation that residential segregation constitutes the "structural linchpin" of racial stratification in the U.S. Although the centrality of segregation as a stratifying force in U.S. society remains, patterns of segregation have changed substantially since the 1970s. At that time, African Americans were highly segregated almost everywhere and socioeconomic attainments had no effect on the degree of segregation experienced by African Americans. Race was very much a master status and most whites subscribed to an ideology of segregation, either de jure or de facto. In the early 1960s, for example, absolute majorities of white Americans still supported segregation as a matter of principle, agreeing on surveys that schools, transportation, occupations, and neighborhoods should be racially segregated and that intermarriage should be prohibited (Schuman et al. 1997).


Douglas Massey and Tannen, J. co-authored chapter two, “Segregation, Race, and the Social World of Rich and Poor” in Kirsch, I. and Braun, H. (Eds.) The Dynamics of Opportunity in America. Residential segregation has been called the “structural linchpin” of racial stratification in the United States. Recent work has documented the central role it plays in the geographic concentration of poverty among African-Americans as well as the close connection between exposure to concentrated deprivation and limited life chances. Here they review trends in racial segregation and Black poverty to contextualize a broader analysis of trends in the neighborhood circumstances experienced by two groups generally considered to occupy the top and bottom positions in U.S. society: affluent Whites and poor Blacks. The analysis reveals a sharp divergence of social and economic resources available within the social worlds of the two groups. They tie this divergence directly to the residential segregation of African-Americans in the United States, which remains extreme in the nation’s largest urban Black communities. In these communities, the neighborhood circumstances of affluent as well as poor African-Americans are systematically compromised.


Douglas Massey’s article in The Oxford Handbook of Social Science of Poverty edited by Brady, D. and Burton, L., entitled, “Segregation and the Perpetuation of Disadvantage,” examines how segregation contributes to the perpetuation of disadvantage over time and across generations. It first traces the historical origins of segregation and reviews early substantive and theoretical work done on the subject at the University of Chicago. It then considers the most commonly used measure of segregation as well as the social mechanisms by which residential segregation is produced, with particular emphasis on the paradigmatic case of African Americans in the twentieth century. It also discusses newer mechanisms that have been advanced to promote racial-ethnic segregation in the twenty-first century and how it fosters socioeconomic inequality through the spatial concentration of poverty. Finally, it describes current levels and trends with respect to both racial and class segregation in cities around the world.


Alejandro Portes and Patricia Fernández-Kelly edited The State and The Grassroots: Immigrant Transnational Organizations in Four Continents. Whereas most of the literature on migration focuses on individuals and their families, this book studies the organizations created by immigrants to protect themselves in their receiving states. Comparing eighteen of these grassroots organizations formed across the world, from India to Colombia to Vietnam to the Congo, researchers from the United States, Belgium, France, the Netherlands, and Spain focus their studies on the internal structure and activities of these organizations as they relate to developmental initiatives. The book outlines the principal positions in the migration and development debate and discusses the concept of transnationalism as a means of resolving these controversies.


Marta Tienda continues to conduct research on educational attainment and successfully revised a paper co-authored with Linda Zhao (Harvard University) on the transition to graduate school using the Baccalaureate and Beyond Survey of 1992/93 longitudinal cohort survey, which is forthcoming in Journal of Higher Education.


Marta Tienda delivered the 2016 Brown Lecture for the American Educational Research Association (AERA). In addition to preparing an article version of the lecture, she is considering expanding the lecture to a short monograph once the article version is completed. Tienda’s lecture asked, where does the social contract guaranteeing equal access to quality education reside? Not in the U.S. Constitution, which laid the foundation for educational inequality by delegating the responsibility for public education to the states. Nor does it reside in the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, which has been used to uphold wealth-based disparities in public education financing. Building on the premise that closing achievement gaps is an economic imperative both to regain international educational supremacy and to maintain global economic competitiveness, Tienda asks whether it is possible to rewrite the social contract so that education is a fundamental right—a statutory guarantee—that is both uniform across states and federally enforceable.


Liu, A (University of Michigan) and Yu Xie. published “Why do Asian Americans Academically Outperform Whites? - The Cultural Explanation Revisited,” in Social Science Research. Why do Asian Americans academically outperform Whites? - The cultural explanation revisited. The authors advocate an interactive approach to examining the role of culture and SES in explaining Asian Americans' achievement. They use Education Longitudinal Study (ELS) 2002 baseline data to test their proposition that the cultural orientation of Asian American families is different from that of white American families in ways that mediate the effects of family SES on children's academic achievement. The results support their hypothesis, indicating that: (1) SES's positive effects on achievement are stronger among white students than among Asian-Americans; (2) the association between a family's SES and behaviors and attitudes is weaker among Asian-Americans than among Whites; (3) a fraction of the Asian-White achievement gap can be accounted for by ethnic differences in behaviors and attitudes, particularly ethnic differences in family SES's effects on behaviors and attitudes. They find that Asian Americans’ behaviors and attitudes are less influenced by family SES than those of Whites are and that this difference helps generate Asians’ premium in achievement. This is especially evident at lower levels of family SES.


Thornton, A. (University of Michigan, Ann Arbor) and Yu Xie. published “Developmental Idealism in China,” in Chinese Journal of Sociology. This paper examines the intersection of developmental idealism with China. It discusses how developmental idealism has been widely disseminated within China and has had enormous effects on public policy and programs, on social institutions, and on the lives of individuals and their families. This dissemination of developmental idealism to China began in the 19th century, when China met with several military defeats that led many in the country to question the place of China in the world. By the beginning of the 20th century, substantial numbers of Chinese had reacted to the country’s defeats by exploring developmental idealism as a route to independence, international respect, and prosperity. Then, with important but brief aberrations, the country began to implement many of the elements of developmental idealism, a movement that became especially important following the assumption of power by the Communist Party of China in 1949. This movement has played a substantial role in politics, in the economy, and in family life. The beliefs and values of developmental idealism have also been directly disseminated to the grassroots in China, where substantial majorities of Chinese citizens have assimilated them. These ideas are both known and endorsed by very large numbers in China today.


Thornton, A. (University of Michigan, Ann Arbor) and Yu Xie. published “Developmental Idealism in China,” in Chinese Journal of Sociology. This paper examines the intersection of developmental idealism with China. It discusses how developmental idealism has been widely disseminated within China and has had enormous effects on public policy and programs, on social institutions, and on the lives of individuals and their families. This dissemination of developmental idealism to China began in the 19th century, when China met with several military defeats that led many in the country to question the place of China in the world. By the beginning of the 20th century, substantial numbers of Chinese had reacted to the country’s defeats by exploring developmental idealism as a route to independence, international respect, and prosperity. Then, with important but brief aberrations, the country began to implement many of the elements of developmental idealism, a movement that became especially important following the assumption of power by the Communist Party of China in 1949. This movement has played a substantial role in politics, in the economy, and in family life. The beliefs and values of developmental idealism have also been directly disseminated to the grassroots in China, where substantial majorities of Chinese citizens have assimilated them. These ideas are both known and endorsed by very large numbers in China today.