To balance ethnocultural diversity with national integration, the Chinese government started formulating a series of ethnic policies in the early 1950s, including policies on identifying and classifying ethnic groups, a system of regional ethnic autonomy, and a set of preferential treatment policies toward 55 minorities. This article aims to examine socioeconomic disparities between ethnic minorities and the Han majority in China, focusing on the role played by regional ethnic autonomy. Based on a large sample of China's mini-census data collected in 2005, we show that among nonfarm working populations, minorities are more likely than the Han to become managers/professionals or obtain high-status occupation, regardless of whether they are living in their own autonomous jurisdiction or other places. Minorities are paid lower wages, however, even after controlling for other characteristics, and the gap is even wider in autonomous jurisdictions than elsewhere. Finally, children of mixed Han-minority marriages in ethnic autonomous jurisdictions are more likely to identify themselves as minorities, especially those holding urban registration status (hukou) whose parents have received more schooling. Our findings bear important implications for the current debate on ethnic policy in China.


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pp. 185-215
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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