“Poorer children study better”: How Urban Chinese young adults perceive relationships between wealth and academic achievement

Sung Won Kim, Kari Elle Brown, Edward J. Kim, Vanessa L. Fong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


This article examines how Chinese citizens perceived the relationship between wealth and achievement among their former middle school classmates. It draws on a survey of 503 respondents in their late twenties and early thirties (who have been followed since 1999, when they were eighth or ninth graders in Dalian City, China) and on interviews with 60 of them. Most believed their former classmates from “poorer” families “studied better” than those from “wealthier” families. Interviewees elaborated that wealthier classmates were more likely than poorer classmates to lack motivation, have poor study habits, and be distracted by material pursuits. Interviewees also suggested that parental involvement was a key factor in shaping achievement, with more involved and educated “poorer” parents’ children doing better than children of “wealthier” business-owner parents who were too busy to get involved in their children’s education. Among these young adults, associations between wealth and achievement differ from those documented in Western societies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)84-102
Number of pages19
JournalComparative Education Review
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Feb

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This material is based on work supported by the National Science Foundation under grants BCS-0845748, BCS-1303404, and BCS-1357439. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. The research for this article was also supported by a Beinecke Brothers Memorial Fellowship, an Andrew W. Mellon Grant, a National Science Foundation Fellowship, a grant from the Weatherhead Center at Harvard University, a postdoctoral fellowship at the Population Studies Center of the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Demography Fund Research Grant, a grant from the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, a National Academy of Education/Spencer Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship, a Visiting Fellowship at the Centre for Research in Arts, Social Sciences, and Humanities at Cambridge University, a grant from the Harvard University China Fund, grants from the Harvard University Asia Center, a grant from the Harvard University William F. Milton Fund, and grants from Amherst College. We thank Amy Wagaman, Eunmi Mun, March Zhengyuan Fan, Angelina Guan, Yushi Shao, Dian Yu, Bowen Yang, and Yun Zhu for their advice and assistance.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 by the Comparative and International Education Society. All rights reserved.

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education


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