Document Type

Book Chapter

Date of this Version



This version is a 2014 working paper. Manuscript subsequently published in:

Gustafsson, B., Hasmath, R. and Sai, D., eds. (2017) Ethnicity and Inequality in China. New York and Oxford: Routledge.

Chinese Version: 中国少数民族的差异性研究 (社会科学文献出版社)


Facility with a country’s dominant language, a key form of linguistic capital, has a role to play in processes of social stratification and mobility, and this role is poorly understood. We have sought, in this paper, to explore access to this form of linguistic capital, and the implications of possessing linguistic capital, for a group of young adults who have been historically disadvantaged: rural young adults in western minority areas. Three main results emerge. First, there is a great deal of variability in linguistic capital, defined as standard Mandarin facility, across provinces and ethnic groups covered in the CHES sample. The greatest gap appears in Xinjiang, where Han residents have very high facility in standard Mandarin, and where minority residents report very low facility. In some provinces in the CHES sample, there are minimal differences between majority and minority populations. Second, standard Mandarin facility is tied to information access, in the form of Internet use. Facility in minority languages is not. Third, Mandarin facility, but not minority language facility, is linked to economic opportunity in young adulthood.


language, information, inequality, rural, youth, China



Date Posted: 06 September 2014

This document has been peer reviewed.