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WPS. No 58 | Cui, J., Arundel, R. (2022) | Changing tenure inequalities through China’s urban housing reforms

This paper considers how the shifting roles of the state, market, and family affect changing tenure structure and privileged housing access over four decades of housing reforms in urban China. The findings point to the reproduction and apparent amplification of housing inequalities over time and across generations.

Housing system transitions often involve successive but overlapping periods of reform with crucial implications towards housing inequality dynamics. Building on market transition and welfare regime frameworks, this paper considers how the shifting roles of the state, market, and family affect changing tenure structure and privileged housing access over four decades of reforms in urban China. Using the Chinese Household Income Project (1988, 1995, 2002) and Chinese Household Finance Survey (2011, 2017), our analyses reveal the path-dependent nature of housing advantage, even as the reforms have dramatically upended urban China’s tenure structure. Inequalities initially associated with political power remain significant largely through privileged access to state-subsidized homeownership which has subsequently been translated into market capacity. We additionally find a substantial and increasing role of family support in the face of constrained state and market access to housing. Together, our findings point to the reproduction and apparent amplification of housing inequalities over time and across generations.