When Choices Become Chances: Extending Boudon’s Positional Theory to Understand University Choices in Contemporary China

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Abstract

This article extends Boudon’s positional theory to understand how students from different social backgrounds estimate their academic performance and how they translate their choices into the final destinations in higher education in the context of contemporary China. I draw upon empirical evidence from a first-hand survey study involving 2,425 undergraduates from different social backgrounds and from different types of universities. The statistical analyses suggest that students from privileged backgrounds and metropolitan areas are more likely to achieve both the institution and field of study of their choice. Geographical origin is the most consistent factor in predicting the overestimation of academic performance and in successful translation of choices into the final desired destinations. Therefore I argue there is a meritocratic legitimation of geographical inequality between developed regions like Shanghai and under-developed areas through higher education selection.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)125-146
JournalCOMPARATIVE EDUCATION REVIEW
Volume62
Issue number1
Early online date21 Dec 2017
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2018

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