Persistence through Revolutions
NBER Working Paper No. 27053
The Chinese Communist Revolution in the 1950s and Cultural Revolution from 1966 to 1976 aimed to eradicate inequality in wealth and education, to shut off intergenerational transmission, and to eliminate cultural differences in the population. Using newly digitized archival data and linked contemporary household surveys and census, we show that the revolutions were effective in homogenizing the population economically and culturally in the short run. However, the pattern of inequality that characterized the pre-revolution generation re-emerges today. Grandchildren of the pre-revolution elites earn 17 percent more than those from non-elite households. In addition, the grandchildren of pre-revolution elites differ in their cultural values: they are less averse to inequality, more individualistic, more pro-market, more pro-education, and more likely to see hard work as critical to success. Through intergenerational transmission, socioeconomic conditions and cultural traits thus survived one of the most aggressive attempts to eliminate differences in the population and to foster mobility.
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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w27053