Scholars often hold an over-deterministic view of educational stratification on members in the top social stratum. This study instead shows that elite families experience contingencies that may hinder status transmission in the schooling process. Through observation and interviews with elite high school students and their parents in China, I found that elite families developed strategic responses to manage contingencies as students’ academic performances shifted. These parental strategies buffered children from incidences of educational failure and provided additional chances of elite university enrollment, which contributed to the status reproduction. By showing elite efforts in strategizing for children’s education and the potential loss of elite status when failing to do so, this study calls for the development of a model of contingency that may better account for educational stratification.
Yi-Lin Chiang is a PhD candidate in Sociology. She received a B.A. in Anthropology from National Taiwan University and an M.A. in the Social Sciences from the University of Chicago. Her research focuses on educational stratification across Chinese societies using both quantitative and qualitative methods. Yi-Lin’s dissertation uses 15 months of participant observation and 85 interviews with high school students, parents, and teachers to examine how privileged students learn to become elites in Beijing, China. Specifically, she looks at the role of competition in shaping student experiences, school hierarchies, and family strategies against uncertain exam outcomes. Other lines of her ongoing research include utilizing data from the Taiwan Youth Project to investigate multigenerational educational stratification in Taiwan and the Gansu Survey of Children and Families to examine youth migration from rural China.