The Chinese Dream: Hukou, Social Mobility, and Trust in Government

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Objective: Social mobility plays an important role in stabilizing the political order. This article leverages China's hukou (household registration) reforms to examine the effects of state-engineered social mobility on individuals’ trust in the government. Methods: Using China General Social Survey data for 2010 and entropy balancing for causal effects, this article provides empirical evidence for the attitudinal effects of social mobility at the individual level. Results: It finds that, first, individuals with the rural-to-urban hukou change are more likely to experience upward mobility, while individuals with the nonlocal-to-local hukou change are more pessimistic about their prospects of upward mobility; second, the rural-to-urban hukou change increases beneficiaries’ trust in the central government, while the nonlocal-to-local hukou change increases beneficiaries’ trust in the local government. Conclusion: The Chinese authoritarian regime's co-optation tactic of engineering upward social mobility via the hukou reforms contributes to its performance-based political legitimacy as it effectively bolsters individuals’ trust in government.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2052-2070
Number of pages19
JournalSocial Science Quarterly
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Sciences(all)


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