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.
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