Friday, September 2, 2022

Persistence of Social Stratification through Revolutions

From a new paper by Alberto Alesina et al:

Can efforts to eradicate inequality in wealth and education eliminate intergenerational persistence of socioeconomic status? The Chinese Communist Revolution and Cultural Revolution aimed to do exactly that. Using newly digitized archival records and contemporary census and household survey data, we show that the revolutions were effective in homogenizing the population economically in the short run. However, the pattern of inequality that characterized the pre-revolution generation re-emerges today. Almost half a century after the revolutions, individuals whose grandparents belonged to the pre-revolution elite earn 16 percent more income and have completed more than 11 percent additional years of schooling than those from non-elite households. We find evidence that human capital (such as knowledge, skills, and values) has been transmitted within the families, and the social capital embodied in kinship networks has survived the revolutions. These channels allow the pre-revolution elite to rebound after the revolutions, and their socioeconomic status persists despite one of the most aggressive attempts to eliminate differences in the population.

1 comment:

David said...

Every revolutionary ideology has to face a countervailing, very basic human devotion to family (however family is defined). One anthropologist doing work in Italy called this "amoral familism." (Incidentally, there was a backlash against this term when it was come up with in the late 60 or 70s, saying that it reflected northern European snobbery toward Mediterraneans--and now you don't hear the term much anymore. So that sort of "cancelling" thing is pretty old by now. Certainly familism is its own sort of morality, but one would have to come up with a new phrase that acknowledges that and that also rings as well as the original phrase.)

Salman Rushdie once described revolutions this way: “The period of stability containing the seeds of its own downfall. The cataclysm being followed by a new and very similar order.” I like that formulation.