Intergenerational Transmission of Wealth
In this paper, I will discuss how social institutions influence my family in terms of intergenerational transmission of wealth and capital as well as gender inequity. I will firstly discuss my family background, and then apply Thompson and Walker, Albelda and Tilly, and Lareau, Domhoff’s theories to my family to discuss why and how the society influences my family members and our daily life.
I come from a Chinese middle-class family in Jinan, the capital city of Shandong province in China. My grandparents, aunts and uncle on my father’s side are living in the same city with us, but we live apart. I am the only child in my family, and now I’m studying abroad in the U.S.
Many government land policies has been changed in China between 1927 to now. According to my grandfather, who used to be a farmer and then a carpenter, the land policy in China changed a lot during his early years. Chinese land policy went through a revolutionary time during 1930s-1980s. During this time, the land policy in China changed from private land ownership to public land ownership and then to household contract responsibility system, which is a policy that allows farmers to borrow land from government and get profit by farming. My grandfather said he could not remember much about his teenage year, but when he became a labor, in about late 1940s, right after the War of Resistance against Japan, the land belonged to the landlord. Farmers had to rent land from landlords and pay rent and interest to the landlords in autumn.
“Every famer had to work hard to gain food,” my grandfather said, “but if you encountered bad weather such as hail or drought, you could not even pay the rent. Life was so hard back then.” Although the Communist Party and the Nationalist Party (Kuo Min Tang) had a policy called “reduction of rent and interest” to ensure famers could have enough food by cutting tax, the farmers lived a harsh time. After the Chinese Civil War, the Communist Party took charge of the Chinese government; the land policy changed from private land ownership to public land ownership. In that time period, the government divided farmers into different “communes.” people in the same commune worked together on the same ground, and after they paid the tax, they would divide the harvest to each laborer. Back then, both my grandfather and my grandmother went to work in the fields, however, my grandfather was able to get more food than my grandmother. Since the males were considered advanced labors, males always got more foods than females; this fact also lead to “boys’ preference”. My grandparents have 5 children: my oldest uncle, my three aunts, and the youngest boy, my father. “Our family lived a good life,” my grandmother said, “We have three males and 4 females, so we could get enough food. You know if all of your children are female, you might not have been full since the rations would be limited.” After a few years, my grandfather became a carpenter in a state-owned business; that means he became a paid worker who could make lot more money than a peasant, and was no longer a farmer.
Government policies also played an important role in urbanization in China. At first, all of my father’s side family were rural registered permanent residences. According to my father, the registered permanent residences means they were “peasant”. My grandfather became Non-agricultural household since he became a worker. And he became the only “city space slicker” in our family.
The Non-agricultural account, which also means permanent urban residence certificate, was very desired by that time period. To have a non-agricultural account meant a person did not have to work on field and also meant he or she has a good salary. My father told me: “At that time, all girl wanted to marry an urban resident, who could provide them a good living quality and comfortable life in a city.”