Strategic Ethnic Identity of Children in China, 1982-2005

Hua-Yu Sebastian Cherng, University of Pennsylvania
Emily Hannum, University of Pennsylvania
Meiyan Wang, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences

The 1980s in China was a period with demographically unexplainable increases in the population of certain ethnic groups. Additionally, couples with at least one minority spouse were able to choose the ethnicity of their children, a decision we call ‘strategic identification’. Using a framework of ethnic boundary crossing, we explore patterns of strategic identification across groups over two decades. We find using census data that certain historically advantaged groups are much more likely to strategically identify their child than other groups. We also explore a number of political and cultural conditions that may explain boundary crossing, and find that contrary to widespread belief, there is no evidence that relaxed fertility policies are associated with more strategic identification. Moreover, cultural representation is associated with higher odds of strategic identification, which is consistent with theories of cultural inversion. However, no explanatory variable can explain completely the differences across group in any year.

  See paper

Presented in Session 196: Ethnoracial Diversity and Change