Social Science Approaches to the Study of Chinese Society, Part II – starting June 26, 2017

Part II of my Coursera course Social Science Approaches to the Study of Chinese Society will launch June 26:

The emphasis is on providing a basic understanding of key elements in the process of designing and conducting a social science research study, with an emphasis on examples related to China. It is not China-specific, and should be accessible to anyone with a general interest in acquiring some understanding of how research is conducted. The intended audience is laypersons who have not previously had a systematic introduction to social science research methods, but would like one in order to better understand research results reported elsewhere, or because they are contemplating a transition into doing social science research.

The course complements topical courses offered by HKUST which focus on China, which emphasize the presentation of important results relevant to specific subjects. Examples include courses on Chinese politics by David Zweig,  Chinese history, population, and society by James Lee, and Chinese economic development by Albert Park. This course would provide insight into how the results presented in these other courses were derived.

Part I is available here:


Changjiang Scholar

I was named a Changjiang Scholar (长江学者) at Central China Normal University (华中师范大学) with the title of Visiting Professor of early modern and contemporary Chinese history (中国近现代史 讲座教授), 2016-2019. This is the highest academic honor conferred on individual scholars by the PRC Ministry of Education.  Only a limited number of overseas scholars are recognized every year, especially in the humanities and social sciences.

I’m the second member of the Lee-Campbell research group to so be honored. In 2006, James Z. Lee was named a Changjiang Scholar at Peking University in the department of Sociology.

In connection with my appointment, my collaborators in the Lee-Campbell Group and I will work with CCNU to advance training and research in quantitative history, with an emphasis on the construction and analysis of big social science datasets.

See the official announcement from the Ministry of Education, and 2016 list of awardees. This article introduces awardees in the field of history. In both cases, I am listed under my Chinese name, 康文林.

The Wikipedia entry for the Changjiang Scholar program provides a brief introduction to the program in English.

The conscience of an ex-conservative

I moved this back here from Medium since I ended up not visiting that site very often.

Watching the slow-motion train wreck that is the Republican Party, the ending of the Lord of the Flies comes to mind. I feel like the naval officer who comes upon Ralph at the very end, and is shocked at how quickly the schoolboys, left to themselves, have degenerated into a savage, Hobbesian war of all-against-all. Along those lines, looking at the awfulness unfolding before us, I can’t help but wonder, what happened to the Republican Party I knew when I was growing up? How did it come to this?

When I was young, the Republican Party was respectable. It wasn’t perfect but neither was the Democratic Party. Reasonable people with moderate views could still give consideration to candidates from both parties, and choose between them after some comparison of the specifics of each. The Republican Party was still the party of Eisenhower and Teddy Roosevelt and Lincoln, and many candidates’ views were still within the mainstream. Reagan had problems, most notably his embrace of dog-whistles to secure the support of the extreme elements in the party that are causing so many problems now, and of course the whole Iran-Contra affair, but he also had some accomplishments. At key moments, he did show flexibility in both domestic and international politics. Then of course there was Nixon, who was in a class of his own in terms of his disregard for institutions. Even Nixon, however, had some accomplishments.

That said, Democrats had their share of misfires as well, including Woodrow Wilson, who was not only racist, but so eager to keep the US out of WWI that he overlooked outrageous activities on US soil by German agents. John F. Kennedy also had his problems, most notably in his approach to handling Vietnam. And then there is Jimmy Carter. Carter is a truly great human being, a very smart man, and as President made many correct decisions, but when all was said and done I don’t think he was up to the challenges that the country faced in the late 1970s. When the country is in a morass as it was in the late 1970s, it not only needed someone with a tremendously analytic mind, but someone who could inspire. Then again, I don’t know if anyone else could have done any better.

In middle and early high school, I was if anything to the right of the Republican Party, in the sense that I was a full-blown libertarian. That’s it, I confess: I was a libertarian. For an immature and self-centered adolescent who knew very little about the complexities of the world and had little in the way of empathy or sympathy, and no real understanding of the difficulties that others faced, libertarianism is appealing. Like most philosophies that prove disastrous in practice but which appeal to angry young people, including Marxism, fundamentalist Christianity, and radical Islam, it is highly reductionist, in retrospect ridiculously so, and offers simple answers to complex questions.

During the acute phase of my libertarianism, I read Atlas Shrugged cover-to-cover dozens of times, including John Galt’s speech in its entirety. I read The Fountainhead, and many of Ayn Rand’s lesser-known works, like Anthem and We The Living. As a frustrated adolescent, it was easy to imagine myself as Hank Rearden, an underappreciated giant being held back by petty minds like Wesley Mouch. I even read works by some of Rand’s lesser-known acolytes and designated intellectual heirs. I read science fiction that had a libertarian perspective, including Robert Heinlein’s wackier later work. I listened to Rachmaninoff, because he was Ayn Rand’s favorite composer. Of course, I listened to Rush, because Neil Peart was an Ayn Rand fan, and Rush lyrics reflected a libertarian sensibility. Think about “The Trees” and “Tom Sawyer.” I even had a Libertarian Party bumper sticker on my car.

My libertarianism began to go into spontaneous remission at some point in college. I was still immature and self-centered, and I apologize to and thank everyone who put up with me during that time, but I did begin to realize the world was much more complex and diverse than I had previously imagined. I also began to take courses in economics where I began to realize that the assumptions underlying many of the claims about the wonders of markets only held under a narrow set of circumstances, most notably perfect information and the inability to collude. By reading history, it also dawned on me that talented people who held power, whether in politics or business, mostly considered only their own interests, or if they were especially altruistic, the interests of their family and friends. Celebrated captains of industry, in other words, were not like Hank Rearden and the other heroes of Atlas Shrugged, but rather more like Wesley Mouch. Somewhere along the line, perhaps toward the end of sophomore year, I stopped rereading Atlas Shrugged.

Other factors contributed to my retreat from libertarianism, at least when it comes to the economy. One was that whereas in high school, I could in some demented, immature way identify with the talented, underappreciated heroes of Atlas Shrugged, once I was in college, I was surrounded by people who were mostly smarter and more talented than I was, had diverse views, and weren’t self-centered. And as much as I liked to admire myself, after a dark period during the beginning of my junior year when I behaved terribly, I realized that I was at least as flawed and imperfect as everybody else, if not more so. The libertarian notion that geniuses left to themselves in an unregulated free market would produce optimal results for everyone without colluding or otherwise taking advantage of their situation was clearly ridiculous. Finally, I read a biography of Ayn Rand, I think The Passion of Ayn Rand, that made it clear that she and most of her followers were completely bonkers.

To this day, I am mystified about how anyone but an adolescent with little understanding of the complexity of the world could believe in hard-core, absolute libertarianism, or for that matter any reductionist political creed that offers easy solutions to complex questions. I can understand why adolescents buy into libertarianism, or Marxism, or any number of philosophies that offer bold, straightforward solutions, but how can anyone a few years older who has spent time in the world and confronted its complexity and encountered its diversity retain any hope that there is a single Theory that has a universally applicable Answer which will deliver the right results in all contexts and settings? The world is a mess. I’m not arguing for relativism here, but for an appreciation that the world is too complex for there to be any one-size-fits-all solution to its many problems. We can certainly start with simple, straightforward models of the world as a way of clarifying our thinking and generating ideas, but when their predictions clash with experience, we have to go with the latter, and adjust. When I see grown-ups advocating for what I regard as hard-core, pure libertarianism, my main thought is that I wish that they would acknowledge that the world is more complicated, so that what may work well when basic assumptions about the market hold may not work well for situations like health care, infrastructure, and education, where there are information asymmetries, externalities, and difficulties assessing costs.

To my mind, ideologically pure, hard-core libertarianism, that is the absolute rejection of any state action except the enforcement of contracts and a few other activities, is the bizarro universe twin of Marxism, and just as silly. Whereas Marxists rejects the market and places unwarranted faith in the benevolence of the state, libertarians reject the state and place unwarranted faith in the benevolence of the market. Just as a state with no checks on its power will become autocratic, with its leaders pursuing their own narrow self-interests, so to will a market with no checks to its power lead to collusion and eventually monopoly. The market works extremely well in situations where the basic assumptions about complete information and so forth hold, but any deviation from those assumptions create opportunities for exploitation and concentration.

All that said, there are things we can learn from libertarianism, and I haven’t gone full Wesley Mouch. One is that when it comes to economic policy, a light touch is almost certainly best, and intervention has to be weighed carefully and justified by theory and evidence. State intervention in domains where the assumptions required for the market to work actually hold is often disastrous, and degenerates into rent-seeking on the part of the politically connected. We have decades of experience showing that efforts to create ‘national champions,’ narrowly target specific industries for development, and dictate the production of commodity goods are generally unsuccessful.

By the time I could vote, my views were middle-of-the-road. I didn’t have a strong preference for either party, and was happy to vote for whichever party put forward whoever I regarded as the most talented, reasonable candidate. I think that in 1988 and definitely in 1992, I voted for George H.W. Bush. At the time I regarded him as thoughtful, prudent, flexible, and generally committed to the good of the country. We have much to be grateful for when it comes to his stewardship in international affairs at a critical period in history. At that time, the Republican Party still seemed to be dominated by people who were respectable and cared about the interests of the country. There are problems with his record, but I don’t know if they were overall worse than the problems with the records of other Presidents.

During the 90s, I was troubled by Clinton’s performance, especially the botched effort to introduce health care reform, but also by the recurring issues related to his probity and conduct. I was also leery of what I thought was the Democrats’ deep embrace of public sector labor unions, who I came to conclude were perverting the original mission of unions, which was to protect workers against the depredations of private sector employers. While the Republicans were maniacal in their desire to find fault with Clinton, I do think that he could have defused many of the problems more quickly than he finally did by being more straightforward and less defensive. I also didn’t share the willingness of many Democrats to dismiss the Lewinsky affair as trivial. I was always puzzled about why he didn’t save the country a lot of time and admit to what he had done early on.

At the same time, though, the Republicans were beginning a descent into madness. Like the beginnings of tertiary syphilis, their increasing eccentricity probably reflected an infection that was already there for some time, and could have been cured if recognized and treated early, but by the nineties it was chronic and had spread to the Republican Party central nervous system, where it eventually led to paranoia, dementia, and delirium. In retrospect, Newt Gingrich, the Contract with America, and the government shutdown were probably symptoms, not a cause.

That said, the Republicans still had occasional periods of lucidity, and the Democrats had their problems, so I didn’t abandon the Republicans. Even when they were behaving bizarrely, like someone in an abusive relationship, I kept hoping that they they might come to their senses, and once again offer an alternative to the Democratic Party. I thought that Dole and Kemp were respectable. I can’t remember how I voted, but I do remember thinking that if it weren’t for the behavior of Gingrich and his colleagues in the House, I would have been supportive. And at the same time, as talented as Bill Clinton was, his relationship with Monica Lewinsky was deplorable and irresponsible, and the willingness of Democrats to excuse or ignore the behavior was to me troubling. Moreover, from a tactical standpoint, I was puzzled by Clinton’s unwillingness or inability to deal with the accusations in a straightforward way.

At the time, I still tended to think of myself as a conservative, not in the way that the Republicans defined it, but in an older and perhaps original definition, that emphasized prudence and deliberation. Perhaps I was idiosyncratic in following this definition. In my view, a true conservative recognizes that the world is complex and there are no simple solutions for anything, so change should be incremental, cautious and above all, evidence-based. To me, the essence of conservatism should be an inductive approach to policy, according to which policy choices are shaped by experience of what works and doesn’t work in the real world, not an deductive approach in which policy is made by reasoning from first principles.

By this standard, self-styled conservatives in the 1990s, and probably earlier were no longer conservative. In the 1990s, Republicans were radical, not conservative. Their thinking was deductive, not inductive. Especially in the House, Republicans advocated views rooted in ideology, not experience or evidence. Some of these, most notably the mania for cutting taxes, were not justified by any empirical evidence, and indeed were contradicted by most available evidence. Rather than advocating cautious, incremental, evidence-based change, Republicans wanted to burn everything down and roll the dice on solutions. The primary standard for choosing a policy seemed to be that it felt right. To me, this wasn’t conservative, but radical. Intellectually, it is no different from the approach of Marxists and other leftists who chose policies by reasoning from first principles, appealing to laws of history, without any regard for whether any evidence suggested that the policies they advocated actually worked.

In 2000, I think that I voted for Gore, but I was not smitten with him, and when George W. Bush was declared the winner, I was hopeful that he would govern like his father. I wasn’t overly concerned. I thought that he acquitted himself reasonably well in the response to 9/11, as well as other challenges in his first year, most notably the handling of the Hainan incident with the EP-3. I have yet to see anyone suggest an alternative to the invasion of Afghanistan, given that they were harboring the architect of 9/11. He appointed people like Colin Powell who I thought were talented and moderate. At the time, I didn’t appreciate how awful Cheney and Rumsfeld were.

For me, the wheels came off of W’s administration with the tax cuts in 2001 and 2003, and then the invasion of Iraq. I thought the tax cuts were irresponsible and ridiculous. The evidence for beneficial effects was limited or non-existent, and indeed they quickly turned the government from surplus into deficit. At the time I thought that the best use of the surplus inherited from the Clinton administration would have been improvements in infrastructure, which was clearly substandard. As for Iraq, I am ashamed to say I was initially not opposed to the war, and when it started I was confident that it would end fairly quickly, but of course it was a debacle. Not only was it a failure that further destabilized the Middle East, but it diverted us from finishing what we had started in Afghanistan.

I voted for Kerry in 2004. During the campaign, I was particularly troubled by the way in which his service in Vietnam was turned into a negative, via outright falsehoods. While dirty tricks had been a staple of campaigns for quite some time, this marked a new low. Meanwhile, I had concluded that George W. Bush was incompetent. He was not necessarily a bad person, but he didn’t have the energy, focus, or temperament to be President. He had delegated responsibility to people like Rumsfeld and Cheney who were truly awful, and failed to oversee them.

For me, the final straw with the Republican Party was in 2008, when John McCain picked Sarah Palin as his running mate. I thought highly of McCain and respected and appreciated his service to the country, but to me the selection of Palin represented a capitulation to the worst, most retrograde and dangerous elements within the Republican Party. She was irresponsible and willfully ignorant, offering little more than an attitude and a personality. There was no way I could countenance someone with so little depth and intellect being anywhere near the Presidency. Had McCain not picked someone who was so obviously unqualified, I might have kept an open mind, but the prospect of her anywhere near the levers of power was terrifying. At the same time, in 2008 the Democrats had 2 candidates who were both highly qualified. I supported Obama because of reservations about Hillary Clinton, and was happy that he won.

As for 2012, I do think that Romney was a respectable candidate, and in other circumstances I would have given him more consideration. In the end, though, I think he went too far in terms of appeasing the worst elements within the Republican Party, debasing himself by abandoning many of the moderate views that had allowed him to succeed as Governor of Massachusetts. I was also disappointed by the selection of Paul Ryan, who has always struck me as an inconsequential lightweight, even though he seems to be widely regarded as a serious person. Under him and his predecessor as Speaker, the House has been intransigent and obstructive.

Now, in 2016, we have the denouement. We have a freak, Donald Trump, as the nominee of the Republican Party, and a less obviously obnoxious but just as awful nominee for Vice-President. The Republican Party has put forward a racist, misogynistic, predatory, anti-Semitic, ignorant, mendacious, lazy, irresponsible, incompetent, thuggish, mercurial, long-winded, paranoid, thin-skinned and possibly traitorous buffoon as its Presidential nominee, and seems to be circling its wagons around him, even though it is apparent that disaster is looming.

At this point, the debasement and intellectual degradation of the Republican Party is so utter and complete that I don’t understand how any thinking person, including libertarians or traditional conservatives, can continue to embrace it. Note that I distinguish here between being Republican and being conservative. I have no problem with people being conservative, but conservatives need to understand that the Republican Party has abandoned them.

The Republican Party is no longer conservative by any reasonable definition. It is now a shrieking, ignorant ball of white-hot misogynistic, racist, populist rage that will not act in anybody’s interests, especially not those of the people who are still likely to vote for it. True conservatives who are still in denial about where there party has gone should realize that their Party has left them behind, and start looking for other options.

What the Republican Party has now become is truly terrifying. Whereas in the past it was an uneasy alliance of business interests, evangelicals, and downright awful populists that periodically but with declining frequency produced qualified candidates, the latter have come to dominate. We now have the spectacle of flagrant misogyny, anti-Semitism, and racism not only from the candidate himself, but from surrogates and proxies, some of whom at some point in the distant past actually seemed halfway respectable.

In retrospect, perhaps this is the inevitable culmination of the process that began with the Southern strategy of Richard Nixon and the dog-whistle dalliances with magical thinking, racism, and intolerance by Reagan, accelerated during the 1990s under Newt Gingrich, became undeniable with the selection of Sarah Palin as a vice-presidential candidate, and is now consuming the Party.

In this light, I am befuddled by those who claim to be puzzled or concerned by the over-representation of Democrats and lack of Republicans among academics. At this point, how could any self-respecting academic, including conservatives, support the Republican Party? I know political conservatives in academics who I suspect would have been fine with the Republican Party of George H.W. Bush’s era, or earlier eras, but I think they would be nuts to support the Republican Party in its current dysfunctional incarnation. The only apparent unifying principle in the Republican Party right now is anti-Clinton rage. The Republican Party is now profoundly anti-intellectual and anti-science, with a seething hatred of academics, and seems to regard anyone who can speak in complete sentences as an elitist, so any academic left who still plans to vote Republican is voting against their own interests, and probably promoting their own eventual extinction.

Going forward, I can’t imagine what the future holds for the real conservatives among the Republican Party. Some have acquitted themselves honorably, notably the National Review crowd, who came out strongly against Trump at an early stage. Their abject failure to influence the primaries, however, suggests that they no longer have any real influence within the Republican Party, and are now a hapless, ineffective fringe. I’m not a fan of the National Review crowd since they still hew too close to the libertarianism that I discarded decades ago, but they deserve credit for recognizing the danger early, being forthright about it, and sticking to their guns. The Republican Party is not the same party as it was a few decades ago, and people need to realize that.

That said, I am mystified by the tendency of libertarians to align with the Republican Party. While it is true that the Republican desire of the last few decades has been to eliminate practically any regulation that inconveniences its corporate donors, it is abundantly clear that the Republican Party has no truck with libertarian thinking when it comes to social issues. At least for the last several decades, the Republican Party has consistently advocated for government regulation of private behavior, whether by making contraception difficult to access or fighting against LGBTQ rights. They have also been retrograde when it comes to drug policy, but then again, so have the Democrats.

I am also puzzled by the continued support from at least certain evangelicals for Trump. He is not only someone who is clearly not religious, but he is also mercurial and completely unprincipled. Evangelicals seem to think that Trump would indulge them if elected by appointing Supreme Court justices according to their preferences, but based on what I have seen, it is just as likely to that he would discard his evangelical supporters the moment he was inaugurated, and pursue his own interests. Trump’s behavior doesn’t suggest that he follows the tenets of any mainstream religion, and indeed suggests he worships only himself, so it is hard to imagine that the evangelical agenda would fare any better under Trump than any other candidate. Indeed, Trump’s willingness to turn on his fellow Republicans rather than accommodate any of them or listen to them should give pause to evangelicals.

Even more puzzling to me are the people who remain undecided, or who oppose Trump but plan to vote for a third-party candidate. They will have no one but themselves to blame if he wins. At this point, I don’t think he will win. Given that he represents the gravest threat to the United States since it was founded, however, it is irresponsible to vote for any candidate other than the one with the best chance of beating Trump.

The situation is unfortunate, since the United States would be best served by having two parties that were both committed to responsible governance but with differing views about the best way forward, so that elections offered a real choice for people who were reasonable and open-minded. At present, however, the Republican Party is no longer a viable option. I’m supporting Hillary Clinton this time around. She’s an excellent candidate. She isn’t perfect, and I consider the use of a personal email server a lapse in judgment, but she’s smart and qualified. That said, I don’t have an ideological commitment to the Democratic Party, and I would be much happier if I had a real choice between two viable candidates who I thought were both qualified for the Presidency. If the Republican Party was still fielding serious candidates, not only for the Presidential election but further down the ballot, I would certainly give them thought.

We are in deep trouble. It is evident now that the naive, Panglossian faith in the market to deliver solutions that would make everyone better off was wildly misplaced. Changes in the last few decades have certainly made elites better off, and there has been admirable improvement in the standards of living in many countries that used to be poor, but in other parts of the world, including the United States, the last few decades have been a story of stagnation for those who were not fortunate enough to be part of the elite. Free trade and deregulation lead to economic growth that eventually does benefit everyone, but the key word here is eventually, and meanwhile while we are on our way to the new equilibrium promised by economic models, there is a lot of short- and medium-term carnage that we have to deal with. Another problem is that many of the benefits of free trade and open markets are diffuse, with small amounts of growth spread over many industries, the costs are highly focused, and very clear to those affected by a plant closure.

The rise of Trump and degeneration of the Republican Party reflects not only economic change, but the years of Republicans messaging that has emphasized simplistic solutions, hatred of elites and disregard for expertise, and misogynistic and racist dog-whistles. In other words, while the emergence of Trump’s base may indeed be a response to economic changes in recent years that have caused many to feel that they have been left behind, they were primed to lash out in the way that they have by years of Republicans telling them that sinister forces were out to get them. We are now in a situation where people who are ostensibly frustrated by their economic situation are rallying behind the candidate and Party who bear most of the responsibility for their problems, and whose policies will only make things worse.

The United States is hardly alone in its political depravity, and clouds are gathering around the world, with thuggish demagogues everywhere responding to the frustrations of those who feel left behind by offering seductively simple answers to the complex problems of modernization. Moreover, these demagogues are connecting with each other and with existing authoritarian states, like cells coming together to form a tumor, raising the prospect of a new era of darkness. Fortunately, they don’t so far seem to be animated by any coherent ideology, and their leadership and appeal seems to be personality-based, so it isn’t clear what will happen in each of their respective countries once they pass away or are incapacitated.

The solution is probably robust state action focused in infrastructure investment, redistribution, health care reform, and other interventions to improve the lot of the 98% of the population who can’t afford a private helicopter, a walled compound, private school education, and a personal MRI machine. Unfortunately, however, we are in a situation where state capacity to act has been seriously eroded by budget cuts, endless attacks on its government agencies and civil servants, and promotion of cynicism about the ability of the state to accomplish anything.

Hopefully at some point in the future we can make governance boring again. We need to move past the markets good, bureaucracy bad mantra, and once again openly make the case that while markets work well in many situations, they have well-known limitations where theory and evidence all indicate that they can’t be relied on to deliver solutions, and in those situations, the state must act, subject to oversight from the electorate.

Lee-Campbell group at Social Science History Association meetings, November 17-20, 2016, Chicago, IL

Current and former members of our research group will be presenting a total of 11 papers at SSHA in November. Additionally, James Lee will be a panelist on a book session, and Shuang Chen will be a discussant.

See below for a complete list of our presentations. Names of group members are in bold.

Thursday, November 17: 12:30 PM-02:30 PM

Session: The city in economic history: The big picture (Room 6)

Xiaowen Hao. Risk Sharing with Chinese Characteristics: Partnership Liability of Local Business in Early Twentieth Century Shanghai.

Session: Family Ties in Household and Community (Room 4)

Xiangning Li. Household Hierarchy and Household Division in Northeast China, 1789-1909.

Hao Dong. Extended Family Norms, Post-Marital Co-Residence and Reproduction in East Asia, 1678-1945

Thursday, November 17: 02:45 PM-04:45 PM

Session: Religion in China (Room 16)

Li Ji. Social formation and identity construction of a Catholic village in nineteenth-century Manchuria.

Session: Early life conditions and later life outcomes (Room 5)

Emma Zang, Hui Zheng.  Does the Sex Ratio at Sexual Maturity Affect Men’s Later Life Mortality Risks? Evidence from Northeast China, 1789-1909.

Thursday, November 17: 05:00 PM-07:00 PM

Session: Women, Gender and Social Reproduction (Room 2)

Shuang Chen Discussant

Hao Dong, Satomi Kurosu. Missing Girls and Missing Boys: Differential Effects of Marital Residence, Co-resident Kin, and Household Wealth in Two Japanese Villages, 1716-1870

Friday, November 18: 04:30 PM-06:00 PM

Session: Author Meets Critics: Moring and Fauve-Chamoux, A Global History of Historical Demography: Half a Century of Interdisciplinarity (Room 3)

James Lee Panelist.

Saturday, November 19: 08:30 AM-10:30 AM

Session: Material antecedents to war and revolution (Room 13)

Matthew Noellert, Yingze Hu, Long Xing, and James Lee.  Collectivization and Inequality in Rural China: Evidence from Shanxi Province, 1946-1966.

Session: Marriage, Family and Partner Selection (Room 6)

Hao Dong. Marriages are Made in Heaven? The Influence of Extended Family in East Asia, 1688-1945

Saturday, November 19: 01:30 PM-03:30 PM

Session: The Demographics of Degrees (Room 15)

Veronica Wang, James Z. Lee, Chen Liang. Women’s Entry into Higher Education: China and U.S. in Comparison.

Sunday, November 20: 08:00 AM-10:00 AM

Session: Chinese State Culture and Bureaucracy in Global and Historical Perspective (Room 16)

Cameron Campbell, Bijia Chen, Chen Liang, Yuxue Ren, James Lee. Official Careers During the Qing (1644-1911): Evidence from the jinshenlu.

Sunday, November 20: 10:15 AM-12:15 PM

Session: Disease and Mortality (Room 4)

Shuang Chen. Patterns of Settlement and Migrants’ Long-term Mortality: A Case from Northeast China, 1866-1913

Consolidating Chinese character variants in preparation for nominative linkage

While carrying out nominative linkage of records of individuals in different editions of a database we are constructing, we ran into three types of problems:

  • Different variants of the same character were used when entering the same individual’s surname or given named in different editions, preventing a link from being made. This was sometimes the result of the coder’s keying, and in other cases, it seemed to reflect differences in the character in the original.
  • Keying mistakes by coders led to the occasional entry of a simplified character, when a traditional character should have been entered.
  • A character in an individual’s given name was replaced with a homonym, preventing a link from between made.

To deal with this, we wrote code in STATA to

  • Consolidate variants for the purpose of nominative linkage by replacing them to the most common variant that appears in our dataset. This isn’t necessarily the ‘right’ variant and we are only doing the replacement temporarily, when we do linkage.We preserve the original entry in the dataset. Since we are linking on surname, given name, and for anyone who wasn’t in the Banners, province and county of origin, we’re not too worried about the prospect of false positives created by linking someone to someone else who has the exact same province and county of origin, and identical other characters in their surname and given name, but whose name actually included the variant.
  • Translate simplified characters to traditional characters. Again, this is only for linkage. We’re not worried about false positives because for a link to be made correctly, the other person would need to be identical on all the other characters in their province, county and surname and given name, and differ only in that one character was written with a traditional character, rather than the traditional character that is now the simplified version of that traditional character.
  • Translate strings of Unicode characters into pinyin, with tones, and then allow for matches to be made in situations where the combination of province, county, surname and given name were identical except for one character that was nevertheless a homophone.

In the hope that our programs and the tables used for mapping might be useful to someone, we provide them below.

Please keep in mind that these were developed for a very specific purpose, nominative linkage, where false positives were unlikely, because we were matching on additional information, and we considered it very, very unlikely that there could be two people from the same province and county, whose combination of name and surname differed by only one character, and the different characters were both variants of a same character. For our purposes, even a few false positive would not be much of a problem. However, for other purposes, the programs below might be inadequate, and some details we have swept under the web might be crucial. If you are dealing with a situation where more precision is important, you are of course welcome to take what we have done as a starting point and come up with something better. We do hope that you will refer to this blog entry.

The other caveat is that we just don’t have time to provide any help or answer questions. For the time being, these programs are sufficient for our purposes, and we are not inclined to do much more work on them. I can’t incorporate suggestions, and if you have questions about the code or the tables, I may or may not be able to answer. The material we have made available here will be most useful to someone who knows STATA, or some programming language.

We have a STATA .do file that includes programs to carry out these tasks.

The program to consolidate variants, consolidate_variants, expects three arguments. Note that it expects a global macro referred to as ${conversion} to contain the name of a path where the .dta files are located. The first is a string variable already in memory that will be the subject of the processing. The second is a string variable to be created that will be where the output is placed. The third will be a string variable to be created which will include a list of the transformations that were made. The program dices the Unicode string, converts each character to Unicode, carries out a merge to obtain a new value if available, and then reassembles everything. Looking at it, there are things I would do to speed it up and simplify it, but I don’t have time.

The program to transform simplified to traditional, to_traditional, is invoked the same way. It also expects a global macro called conversion to exist, and point to a path where the .dta file is located.

Finally, to_pinyin creates a string of pinyin with tones. It is invoked with two arguments, the first being the name of an existing string, and the second the name of a string to be created.

Our programs rely on mappings constructed from files we downloaded from the Unicode website:, in particular from the folder Within that zip file, Unihan_Variants.txt was the basis for our mapping of character variants and simplified/traditional variants. Unihan_Readings.txt was the basis for our mappings to pinyin. We imported these files into STATA, and then produced three different files, one for the variant mappings, one for simplified/traditional mapping, and one for pinyin. We did additional processing to narrow down the variant mappings so that they would all converge on the version of a character that was most common in our dataset.

Here is the Excel file with our variant mappings, and here is the Stata .dta file. In this file, unicode is the ‘before’ version, unicode_cv is the ‘after’ version, and for reference, the Chinese characters corresponding to the before and after Unicode values are included as original_cv and outcome_cv, respective. Outcome_cv_total is the count of the number of times the outcome character appeared in our data, and was the basis for the decision about which character was ‘before’ and which one was ‘after’.

Here is the Excel file with our simplified to traditional mappings, and the Stata .dta file.

Finally, here is the Excel file with our mappings to pinyin, and the Stata .dta file.

Lee-Campbell group at the Social Science History Association, Baltimore, MD, November 2015

We’ll be at the Social Science History Association meetings in Baltimore, MD November 12-14, 2015. Below are the sessions in which members of the Lee-Campbell research group are involved in some way or another. We have two presentations of papers co-authored with graduate students, I will be serving as a discussant for another session, and then there will be an author-meets-critics session for Similarity in Difference: Marriage in Europe and Asia, 1700-1900, the Eurasia Project comparative study of marriage lead-authored by Christer Lundh and Satomi Kurosu. We look forward to seeing everyone!

A4 Thursday, November 12, 1:00pm – 3:00pm Constellation D 
Kinship and Mortality
Chair: J. David Hacker, University of Minnesota (History & Minnesota Population Center)
The Role of Grandmaternal and Grandpaternal Age on Survival
Heidi A. Hanson, University of Utah (Huntsman Cancer Institute, Pedigree & Population Science)
Ken Smith, University of Utah (Human Development and Family Studies) 
Geraldine Mineau, University of Utah (Utah Population Database) 
Family Influence on Mortality: An East Asian Comparison, 1700-1950 
Hao Dong, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (Division of Social Sciences)
James Lee, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (Humanities and Social Science) 
Hundred Years of Repeated Bereavement: Childhood Mortality Clustering in the Netherlands 1812 – 1912
Ingrid Van Dijk, Radboud University Nijmegen (History) 
Discussant: Sven Wilson, Brigham Young University (Political Science)
F5 Friday, November 13, 2:15pm – 4:15pm Chesapeake B 
Forming and Dissolving Marriages and Households 


Chair: Catherine Fitch, University of Minnesota (Minnesota Population Center) 

Household Structure at Early 19th Century Ireland 

Yoshifumi Shimizu, Momoyama Gakuin University (Sociology) 

Marriageability and the Race Differential in the Frequency of Marriage, 1960-2014

Steven Ruggles, University of Minnesota (Minnesota Population Center) 

Determinants of Interethnic Marriage in 19th Century China

Bijia Chen, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (Social Science)

Hao Dong, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (Social Science)

Cameron Campbell, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (Social Science) 

Single Gender Households in Mid Nineteenth Century Kyoto, Japan 

Mary Louise Nagata, Francis Marion University / EHESS (History / CRH)

Discussant: Katherine A. Lynch, Carnegie Mellon University (History) 

G2 Friday, November 13, 4:30pm – 6:30pm Constellation C 

Kinship Influences on Reproduction


Chair: Lisa Dillon, Université de Montréal (Démographie) 

Do Grandmothers Influence the Fertility of their Daughters?

Geraldin Mineau, University of Utah (Utah Population Database) 

Alan Rogers, University of Utah (Anthropology)

Kristen Hawkes, University of Utah (Anthropology)

Edward Christensen, University of Utah (Anthropology)

Heidi A. Hanson, University of Utah (Pedigree & Population Science)

Ken Smith, University of Utah (Human Development and Family Studies)

Reproductive Behavior of Landless Agricultural Workers, Small Farmers, and the Economic Elite in the Historical Krummhoern Region (East Frisia, Germany, 1720-1870)

Charlotte Stoermer, Universiteit Utrecht (Department Geschiedenis en Kunstgeschiedenis)

Kai Pierre Willfuehr, Planck Institute for Demographic Research (Demography)

Natural Fertility and Longevity, a review of the literature 

Alain Gagnon, Université de Montréal (Démographie)

Socially Differentiated Fertility Measures from Censuses and Church Records

Hilde Sommerset, University of Tromsø (Norwegian Historical Data Centre) Gunnar Thorvaldsen, University of Tromsø (Norwegian Historical Data Centre) 

Spousal Power Relations and Fertility Careers: Evidence from the Netherlands, 1850- 1940

Hilde Bras, Wageningen University (Social Sciences) 

Reto Schumacher, University of Geneva (Economics) 
Discussant: Cameron Campbell, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (Social Science)
K5 Saturday, November 14, 3:45pm – 5:15pm Constellation C
Book Session: Similarity in Difference: Marriage in Europe and Asia, 1700-1900 
Chair: Daniel Little, University of Michigan Dearborn (Philosophy) 
Similarity in Difference: Marriage in Europe and Asia, 1700-1900
Satomi Kurosu, Reitaku University (The Collge of Foreign Studies)
Christer Lundh, University of Gothenburg (Economic History)
Andrew Cherlin, Johns Hopkins University (Sociology)
Hilde Bras, Wageningen University (Sociology of Consumption and Households)
Evan Roberts, University of Minnesota (History)

China Multigenerational Panel Datasets Workshop, UCLA, Los Angeles, CA, January 6-8, 2016.

We are pleased to announce a workshop to be held January 6-8, 2016 to introduce the China Multigenerational Panel Datasets (CMGPD). These are major resources for the study of demography, stratification, and family. The workshop will feature the China Multigenerational Panel Dataset-Shuangcheng (CMGPD-SC), the release of which is nearing completion, as well as the previously released China Multigenerational Panel Dataset-Liaoning (CMGPD-LN). The workshop will be held at the California Center for Population Research at the University of California, Los Angeles.

The China Multi-Generational Panel Dataset – Shuangcheng (CMGPD-SC) provides longitudinal individual, household, and community information on the demographic and socioeconomic characteristics of a resettled population living in Shuangcheng, a county in present-day Heilongjiang Province of Northeastern China, for the period from 1866 to 1913. The dataset includes some 1.3 million annual observations of over 100,000 unique individuals descended from families who were relocated to Shuangcheng in the early 19th century. Distinguishing features of the CMGPD-SC include linked records of household landholding, registered ethnicity, and better registration of unmarried daughters than most microdata for pre-20th century Chinese populations.

The China Multigenerational Panel Dataset-Liaoning (CMGPD-LN), which will also be reviewed, provides 1.6 million triennial observations of approximately 250,000 individuals who lived in what is now Liaoning province between the middle of the 17th century and the beginning of the 20th century. The most distinctive feature of the CMGPD-LN is its time depth, with many families covered for as many as seven generations, and its geographic breadth, covering villages spread across an area the size of the Netherlands or New Jersey.

More information about the CMGPD datasets are available at their page at ICPSR. Details of the origin and basic characteristics of the CMGPD-LN are available in its User Guide. A User Guide is also available for the CMGPD-SC.

The workshop is intended to allow interested researchers to assess the suitability of the CMGPD for their research topics, and provide current users with additional insight into key features that may affect their use of the data or their interpretation of results. No prior quantitative training or knowledge of Chinese history is required. The workshop will not provide instruction in quantitative analysis or data management, and anyone seeking such training should go elsewhere.

At the workshop, sessions will introduce the background and context of the populations covered by the data, review the key features, outline its strengths and limitations, and assess its suitability for the study of a variety of topics in demography, sociology, and economics. Particular emphasis will be on the longitudinal and multi-generational features of the data. The workshop will provide examples of how the data may be manipulated to take advantage of longitudinal and kinship linkage to produce variables for specific research applications.


The workshop will be in the California Center for Population Research Seminar Room, Public Policy 4202.

Overview of the CMGPD – Wednesday, January 6, 2015

  • 9AM-9:30AM Welcome and participant self-introductions
  • 9:30AM-10:30AM Unique features of the CMGPD, including comparisons to other datasets
  • 10:30AM-10:45AM Break
  • 10:45AM-11:30AM Comparison of the CMGPD-SC and CMGPD-LN
  • 11:30AM-2PM Lunch (not provided)
  • 2PM-3:30PM Format and basic structure of the CMGPD
  • 3:30PM-3:45PM Break
  • 3:45PM-5PM Limitations of the CMGPD to be aware of when considering use

Contents of the CMGPD – Thursday, January 7, 2015

  • 9AM-10:30AM Demographic outcomes
  • 10:30AM-10:45AM Break
  • 10:45AM-12 Noon Household context variables
  • 12 Noon-1:30PM Lunch (not provided)
  • 1:30PM-3:15PM Social, economic and institutional status variables
  • 3:15PM-3:30PM Break
  • 3:30PM-4:30PM Constructed kinship variables
  • 4:30PM-5PM Geographic context variables

Advanced operations with the CMGPD – Friday, January 8, 2015

  • 9AM-10:30AM – Identifier variables for use in linkage
  • 10:30AM-10:45AM – Break
  • 10:45AM-12 Noon – Constructing life history, kinship, and community contextual variables
  • 12 Noon-1:30PM Lunch (not provided)
  • 1:30PM-3:15PM Examples of applications
  • 3:15PM-3:30PM Break
  • 3:30PM-5PM Participant presentations and general Q&A

Recommended reading/viewing

Please read or view as much as possible of the following in advance of the workshop, and come prepared with questions..


We will be being able to provide some support for travel expenses to registered participants. Applicants have an opportunity to indicate need for support at the application portal.

There is no fee for attendance, but prospective participants must complete a simple application and submit some basic documentation.

The application portal is now open. We are still considering applications. We will normally respond to completed applications within a day or two.

If you have questions, please email me at


The workshop is being organized by the Data Sharing for Demographic Research (DSDR) project at the Interuniversity Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR). DSDR is a project supported by the Population Dynamics Branch (PDB) of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (U24 HD048404). The UCLA California Center for Population Research (CCPR) is providing the venue as well as logistical support. CCPR receives population research infrastructure funding (R24HD041022) from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD).

Preparation of the CMGPD-SC and accompanying documentation for public release via ICPSR DSDR was supported by the National Institutes of Health, Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) Grant no. R01 HD070985 “Multi-generational Demographic and Landholding Data: CMGPD-SC Public Release.”