We have five ongoing ‘big historical data’ projects, which we introduce briefly, with links to extended descriptions.

Kinship, demographic behavior,  and inequality in China from the 18th century to the beginning of the 20th

For several decades we have conducted research on kinship, inequality, and demographic behavior in China and in comparative perspective using large multi-generational population databases that we constructed, most notably the China Multigenerational Panel Datasets (CMGPD). We have published on a wide variety of topics using these data, including economic, family and social influences on demographic outcomes such as birth, marriage, migration, and death, fertility limitation in historical China, and the role of kin networks in shaping social mobility. The most recent outputs include a 2018 study of ethnic intermarriage in northeast China that appeared in Demographic Research and a 2015  study of how patrilineal kin network characteristics can influence individuals’ life chances generations later in American Sociological Review. We summarize our earlier work on these data in a 1997 book from Cambridge University Press. The multi-generational databases were the basis of our contributions to three coauthored books published in 2004, 2010, and 2014 in the MIT Press Eurasian Population and Family History Series comparing relations between family organization, demographic behavior and economic conditions in past times. We publicly released the CMGPD and they are are available at ICPSR.

Social origins of university students in China, 1890-2010

The China University Student Database (CUSD) project analyzes the social and geographic familial background of university students in Republican China (ROC) and elite university students in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) based on a collection of 400,000 individual university student registration cards from 35+ Chinese universities as well as a variety of published and archival sources on Chinese students studying abroad as well as domestically. Our analysis of the social origins of students at Peking University and Suzhou University was the basis of a book 无声的革命: 北京大学、苏州大学的学生社会来源 1952-2002 that was published in 2013 as well as a 2012 article with the same name that appeared in 中国社会科学 (Chinese Social Science). These fed into and influenced ongoing debates about the role of examinations for university admissions. More recently we have been constructing databases of student registration data from major universities 1911-1949 and are using these data to complete a book manuscript that is a prequel to 无声的革命 on the history and origins of Chinese university students in the first half of the twentieth century.

Rural reconstruction in 20th century China

One of the most defining features of twentieth century China was its transformation of the world’s largest agrarian society. We are constructing a new dataset series, the China Rural Reconstruction Datasets (CRRD), to capture the many stages and movements that comprise this century-long transformation. The first two datasets in this series record information about individual and household experiences during the most dramatic stages of this process between 1946 and 1966, when the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) carried out a nationwide redistribution of land and then gradually organized rural communities into agricultural cooperatives and ultimately People’s Communes. The China Rural Reconstruction Dataset – Land Reform (CRRD-LR) studies one of the largest re-distributions of wealth and power in history – the CCP’s nationwide Land Reform Movement from 1946 to 1953. Records of this movement include detailed individual- and household-level registers of property expropriation and reallocation and the political struggles involved in this redistribution of wealth. Currently the CRRD-LR contains county-wide data on the land reform experiences of over 80,000 households with approximately 400,000 individuals in Shuangcheng, Heilongjiang between 1946 and 1948.

The China Rural Reconstruction Dataset – Si Qing (CRRD-SQ) studies the social and economic transformation of Chinese society over the first half of the twentieth century by analyzing social class registration forms (阶级成份登记表) compiled on the eve of the Cultural Revolution in 1966. The CRRD-SQ currently contains data from over 25,000 of these forms, one quarter in collaboration with the Shanxi University Research Center for Chinese Social History, from four provinces: Shanxi, Hebei, Inner Mongolia, and Guangdong. Each form records two to three pages of information per household, including their property holdings and occupations before and after land reform in the late 1940s, at the time when cooperatives were formed in the mid-1950s, and at the time of compilation c.1966; the household head’s social relations, a three-generation family history, and social, demographic, and political details on every household member over 15 sui.

Civil and military officials in Qing and Republican China, 1700-1949

In 2013, we initiated a new project to study Qing educational and political elites and the Qing bureaucracy by constructing and analyzing a longitudinal individual-level database from the surviving editions of the jinshenlu (縉紳錄) that covers nearly all civil offices and their holders. We have also been coding military officials recorded in the 中樞備覧. The resulting dataset is the China Government Employee Database-Qing (CGED-Q). As of July 2020, we have more than 4,000,000 records entered, with nearly complete coverage of the period between 1830 and 1912. This study is distinctive in that previous studies of officials and other government employees have mainly been case studies of specific individuals or government offices. Starting in spring 2019, we began making the data public in stages, in collaboration with the Institute of Qing History at Renmin University. We have also begun collecting and entering data on civil officials during the Republican era in the China Government Employee Dataset-Republic of China (CGED-ROC).

Educated professionals in Republican China

In 2016, because of our interest in better understanding the development of professional education and employment in China, we decided to create the China Professional Occupation Datasets (CPOD) for five professional occupations – accountants, engineers, health professionals, legal professionals, and university faculty and staff – during the Republic of China (ROC) and the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

We have already located data for some 85,000 such professionals, largely from the Republic of China, and have entered information for 50,000, many of whose student records are in the CUSD-ROC and CUSD-OS, and who may also have records in the CGED-ROC.