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Family Resources, Gender, and Immigration: Changing Sources of Hong Kong Educational Inequality, 1971–2001


  • *The data and coding used in this article can be shared with other researchers wishing to investigate Hong Kong educational stratification. This research was conducted while the author was a Fulbright Visiting Professor at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. The author appreciates the support of colleagues in its Division of Social Sciences, as well as suggestions from anonymous SSQ reviewers. He also wishes to thank Rachel Louie and Janelle Ng for computer programming assistance.

David Post, 404 Rackely, Penn State University, University Park, PA 16803


Objective. This study gauged the impact of government-led educational expansion on Hong Kong's social stratification over a 30-year period. The historically close state control over school supply in Hong Kong allows us to test the effectiveness of public policy in changing the transmission of advantages across generations.

Methods. I analyzed household-level census data from 1971, 1981, 1991, and 2001. Interviews and documents were also used to illuminate reasons for trends during this period.

Results. There was a diminishing role of family resources and gender on access to all levels of schooling until 1991. From 1991 through 2001, however, there was a reversal of this trend at the postsecondary level, as access to university education became more dependent on family resources. In addition, new immigrants from mainland China were at an increased disadvantage.

Conclusions. Hong Kong's current plan to create a second tier of self-supporting postsecondary institutions will exacerbate the tendency toward unequal university access, and is also likely to segregate new arrivals from mainland China.