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Children of the Cultural Revolution: The State and the Life Course in the People's Republic of China

Xueguang Zhou and Liren Hou
American Sociological Review
Vol. 64, No. 1 (Feb., 1999), pp. 12-36
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2657275
Page Count: 25
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Children of the Cultural Revolution: The State and the Life Course in the People's Republic of China
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Abstract

From 1967 to 1978, the state "send-down" policy in the People's Republic of China forced 17 million urban youth to live and work in rural areas. We examine the life experiences of the children of the Cultural Revolution-those youths who entered the labor force during this period. The send-down episode provides a "natural experiment"-an opportunity to study the effects of state policies on the life course in a state socialist society. We focus on two theoretical issues: (1) how the effects of adverse state policies on the life course were mediated by the structure of social stratification, and (2) how the send-down experience affected individuals' later life course and economic well-being. We compare and contrast patterns of entry into the labor force, subsequent major life events, and the economic well-being of sent-down youth with those who stayed in urban areas. Our findings show that all social groups were negatively affected by adverse state policies, but the bureaucratic class had some capacity to reduce such negative effects on their children. The send-down experience has had lasting effects on individuals' life courses, as reflected in the patterns of the later life course events and in the determinants of personal income.

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