How flexible gender identities give young women advantages in China’s new economy

Sung won Kim, Kari Elle Brown, Vanessa L. Fong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


In this article, we examine how a cohort of urban youth born under China’s one-child policy have developed flexible gender identities through their childrearing aspirations and educational and occupational narratives, choices, and trajectories between 1999 and 2014. Drawing on surveys of 406 respondents conducted in 1999, 2012–2013, and 2013–2014, and interviews of 48 of those respondents in 2011–2014, we argue that our female research participants were more able to produce flexible gender identities than their male counterparts, and that China’s new market economy increasingly rewards youth who are flexible enough to adjust to rapidly changing circumstances, an approach more compatible with the flexible gender identities produced by young women than the more rigid gender identities produced by young men.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)982-1000
Number of pages19
JournalGender and Education
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Nov 17

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
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, and a grant from the Harvard University William F. Milton Fund. We thank Amy Wagaman, Shu-Min Liao, Eunmi Mun, Yun Zhu, Lisa Hsiao, Zhengyuan ‘March’ Fan, Emily Bai, Elizabeth Austadt, Edward Kim, Stephen Koenig, Dian Yu, Kunali Gurditta, Yushi Shao, Ying ‘Angelina’ Guan, and Bowen Yang, for their advice and assistance.

Funding Information:
This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under [grant number BCS-0845748], [grant number BCS-1303404], and [grant number BCS-1357439].

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017, © 2017 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Gender Studies
  • Education


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