* denotes equal contribution and joint lead authorship.
For publications below without codes posted on this website, please contact the corresponding author.


  1. Trends in Social Mobility in Post-Revolution China.
    Xie, Yu, Hao Dong, Xiang Zhou, and Xi Song.

    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 119(7): e2117471119. DOI.

    In this paper, we study long-term trends in social mobility in the People’s Republic of China since its inception in 1949, with two operationalizations: 1) intergenerational occupational mobility and 2) intergenerational educational mobility. We draw on an accumulation of administrative and survey data and provide comparable estimates of these measures for birth cohorts born after 1945. To help interpret the results, we compare trends in China to those in the United States for the same birth cohorts. We find an increase in intergenerational occupational mobility in China due to its rapid industrialization in recent decades. Net of industrialization, however, intergenerational occupational mobility has been declining for recent cohorts. Intergenerational educational mobility in China shows a similar declining trend. In addition, mobility patterns have differed greatly by gender, with women in earlier cohorts and from a rural origin particularly disadvantaged. We attribute the general decline in social mobility to market forces that have taken hold since China’s economic reform that began in 1978. In contrast, social mobility by both measures has been relatively stable in the United States. However, while social mobility in China has trended downward, it is still higher than that in the United States, except for women’s educational mobility.


  1. Kinship Dynamics with Time-Varying Demographic Rates.
    Caswell, Hal and Xi Song.

    Demographic Research. 45(16):517–546. DOI.

    BACKGROUND Kinship models, from the pioneering work of Goodman, Keyfitz, and Pullum to the recent matrix-oriented approach of Caswell, have assumed time-invariant demographic rates, and computed the kinship structures implied by those rates. In reality, however, demographic rates vary with time and it is of interest to compute the consequences of such variation for kinship structures. OBJECTIVE Our goal is to develop a matrix model for the dynamics of kinship networks subject to arbitrary temporal variation in survival, fertility, and population structure. METHODS We develop a linked set of equations for the dynamics of the age structure of each type of kin of a Focal individual. The matrices that describe survival and fertility are given as functions of time. The initial conditions required for the time-invariant model are replaced with a set of boundary conditions for initial time and initial age. RESULTS The time-varying model maintains the kinship network structure of the time-invariant model. In addition to the results provided by the time-invariant model, it provides kinship structures by period, cohort, and age. It applies equally to historical sequences of past demographic rates and to projections of future rates. As an illustration, we present an analysis of the kinship structure of Sweden from 1891 to 2120..
  2. Multigenerational Social Mobility: A Demographic Approach.

    Sociological Methodology 51(1):1–43. DOI.

    Most social mobility studies take a two-generation perspective, in which intergenerational relationships are represented by the association between parents’ and offspring’s socioeconomic status. This approach, although widely adopted in the literature, has serious limitations when more than two generations of families are considered. In particular, it ignores the role of families’ demographic behaviors in moderating mobility outcomes and the joint role of mobility and demography in shaping long-run family and population processes. This article provides a demographic approach to the study of multigenerational social mobility, incorporating demographic mechanisms of births, deaths, and mating into statistical models of social mobility. Compared with previous mobility models for estimating the probability of offspring’s mobility conditional on parent’s social class, the proposed joint demography-mobility model treats the number of offspring in various social classes as the outcome of interest. This new approach shows the extent to which demographic processes may amplify or dampen the effects of family socioeconomic positions because of the direction and strength of the interaction between mobility and differentials in demographic behaviors. The author illustrates various demographic methods for studying multigenerational mobility with empirical examples using the IPUMS linked historical U.S. census representative samples (1850–1930), the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (1968–2015), and simulation data that show other possible scenarios resulting from demography-mobility interactions..
  3. Using Administrative Big Data to Solve Problems in Social Science and Policy Research.
    Song, Xi and Thomas S. Coleman.

    Global Social Security Review. 14:5–15.

    This article describes an explosion in the availability of individual-level public administrative data in the United States and worldwide. These datasets can be used as stand-alone resources or linked across different sources. These new resources will facilitate transformative research on social, demographic, and economic changes, policy evaluation, and other experimental analyses. We discuss the current status of administrative big data in the United States, their potential to advance social science and policy studies, and advantages and challenges for using these data in practice. We showcase a few ongoing large-scale U.S. administrative data initiatives and hope to spark future parallel endeavors in other countries..


  1. SSM
    Negative Financial Shock Increases Loneliness in Older Adults, 2006–2016: Reduced Effect during the Great Recession (2008–2010).
    Louise, Hawkley, Boyan Zheng, and Xi Song.

    Social Science & Medicine. 255:113000. DOI.

    Highlights • In older adults, a large loss of income leads to greater loneliness net of covariates. • Loneliness decreased in those who experienced income shock during the Great Recession. • Changes in health and social experiences did not explain the income shock effect. • Reducing financial difficulties may reduce loneliness in older adults..
  2. Long-Term Decline in Intergenerational Social Mobility in the United States, 1850–2015.
    Song, Xi, Catherine G. Massey ,Karen A. Rolf, Joseph P. Ferrie, Jonathan L. Rothbaum, and Yu Xie.

    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 117(1):251–258. DOI.

    We make use of newly available data that include roughly 5 million linked household and population records from 1850 to 2015 to document long-term trends in intergenerational social mobility in the United States. Intergenerational mobility declined substantially over the past 150 y, but more slowly than previously thought. Intergenerational occupational rank–rank correlations increased from less than 0.17 to as high as 0.32, but most of this change occurred to Americans born before 1900. After controlling for the relatively high mobility of persons from farm origins, we find that intergenerational social mobility has been remarkably stable. In contrast with relative stability in rank-based measures of mobility, absolute mobility for the nonfarm population—the fraction of offspring whose occupational ranks are higher than those of their parents—increased for birth cohorts born prior to 1900 and has fallen for those born after 1940..
  3. SSR
    Heterogeneous Treatment Effects on Children’s Cognitive/Non-Cognitive Skills: A Reevaluation of an Influential Early Childhood Intervention.
    Xie, Yu, Christopher Near, Hongwei Xu, and Xi Song.

    Social Science Research. 86:102389. DOI.

    The 1962–67 High/Scope Perry Preschool Program, a well-known experimental early childhood intervention study that provided quality preschool education to disadvantaged children, has been shown to have had positive impacts on early child development and on a variety of adulthood outcomes. However, most previous analyses have only examined average treatment effects across all program participants without exploring possible effect heterogeneity by children's background characteristics. We investigated this question by first using the 1964–65 Current Population Survey data in combination with the Perry data to construct a scale of child socioeconomic status based on the estimated propensity for inclusion in the Perry program, then analyzing effect heterogeneity within the Perry sample by strata of our socioeconomic scale. We found that the treatment effects of enrollment in the Perry preschool on cognitive and non-cognitive skills were much larger and more persistent among the most disadvantaged children than among others in the Perry program. Furthermore, among the most disadvantaged children, the treatment (i.e., preschool enrollment) affects later outcomes through a reinforcement mechanism of skill development (i.e., early cognitive gain leads to a non-cognitive gain, which in turn leads to later cognitive gain) and a sequential improvement of cognitive skills over time. These findings have important implications for the evaluation of policy interventions in early child development using experimental data..


  1. ASR
    Linked Lives, Linked Trajectories: Intergenerational Association of Intragenerational Income Mobility.
    Cheng, Siwei and Xi Song*.

    American Sociological Review. 84(6): 1037–1068. DOI.

    Most intergenerational mobility studies rely on either snapshot or time-averaged measures of earnings, but have yet to examine resemblance of earnings trajectories over the life course of successive generations. We propose a linked trajectory mobility approach that decomposes the progression of economic status over two generations into associations in four life-cycle dimensions: initial position, growth rate, growth deceleration, and volatility. Using father-son dyad data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, we show that men resemble their fathers not only in the overall level of earnings but also in the pattern by which their earnings develop over time. The intergenerational persistence of earnings varies substantially across life stages of both generations; it is strongest for fathers’ early-career and sons’ mid-career, with an intergenerational elasticity (IGE) as high as .6. This result can be explained by the concurrence of the parent’s early career and the offspring’s early childhood. Our findings suggest the intergenerational economic association between parents and offspring is not age-constant but is contingent on the respective life stages of both generations and, most importantly, the period during which they overlap..
  2. Shared Lifetimes, Multigenerational Exposure, and Educational Mobility.
    Song, Xi and Robert D. Mare.

    Demography 56(3): 891–916. DOI.

    In this article, we report analyses of the effects of fertility and mortality trends on the mutual exposure of grandparents and grandchildren and their consequences for multigenerational processes of social mobility in the United States from 1900 to 2010. Using historical vital statistics and stable population models, we report systematic analyses of grandparent-grandchild exposures from both prospective (grandparent) and retrospective (grandchild) perspectives. We also estimate exposure levels and trends specific to education levels of grandparents and grandchildren and decompose the overall trend into the effect of changing mortality, fertility level, and fertility timing. We show that changes in mutual exposure of grandparent and grandchild generations may have contributed to an increasing association between grandparents’ and grandchildren’s educational attainments..
  3. Parental Divorce Is Not Uniformly Negative for Children’s Educational Attainment.
    Brand, Jennie E., Ravaris Moore, Xi Song, and Yu Xie.

    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 116(15): 7266–7271. DOI.

    Children whose parents divorce tend to have worse educational outcomes than children whose parents stay married. However, not all children respond identically to their parents divorcing. We focus on how the impact of parental divorce on children’s education varies by how likely or unlikely divorce was for those parents. We find a significant negative effect of parental divorce on educational attainment, particularly college attendance and completion, among children whose parents were unlikely to divorce. Families expecting marital stability, unprepared for disruption, may experience considerable adjustment difficulties when divorce occurs, leading to negative outcomes for children. By contrast, we find no effect of parental divorce among children whose parents were likely to divorce. Children of high-risk marriages, who face many social disadvantages over childhood irrespective of parental marital status, may anticipate or otherwise accommodate to the dissolution of their parents’ marriage. Our results suggest that family disruption does not uniformly disrupt children’s attainment..
  4. Why Does Parental Divorce Lower Children’s Educational Attainment? A Causal Mediation Analysis.
    Brand, Jennie E., Ravaris Moore, Xi Song, and Yu Xie.

    Sociological Science 6: 264–292. DOI.

    Mechanisms explaining the negative effects of parental divorce on children’s attainment have long been conjectured and assessed. Yet few studies of parental divorce have carefully attended to the assumptions and methods necessary to estimate causal mediation effects. Applying a causal framework to linked U.S. panel data, we assess the degree to which parental divorce limits children’s education among whites and nonwhites and whether observed lower levels of educational attainment are explained by postdivorce family conditions and children’s skills. Our analyses yield three key findings. First, the negative effect of divorce on educational attainment, particularly college, is substantial for white children; by contrast, divorce does not lower the educational attainment of nonwhite children. Second, declines in family income explain as much as one- to two-thirds of the negative effect of parental divorce on white children’s education. Family instability also helps explain the effect, particularly when divorce occurs in early childhood. Children’s psychosocial skills explain about one-fifth of the effect, whereas children’s cognitive skills play a minimal role. Third, among nonwhites, the minimal total effect on education is explained by the offsetting influence of postdivorce declines in family income and stability alongside increases in children’s psychosocial and cognitive skills.


  1. ASR
    Rising Intragenerational Occupational Mobility in the United States, 1969-2011.
    Jarvis, Benjamin F. and Xi Song.

    American Sociological Review 82(3): 568–599. DOI.

    Despite the theoretical importance of intragenerational mobility and its connection to intergenerational mobility, no study since the 1970s has documented trends in intragenerational occupational mobility. The present article fills this intellectual gap by presenting evidence of an increasing trend in intragenerational mobility in the United States from 1969 to 2011. We decompose the trend using a nested occupational classification scheme that distinguishes between disaggregated micro-classes and progressively more aggregated meso-classes, macro-classes, and manual and nonmanual sectors. Log-linear analysis reveals that mobility increased across the occupational structure at nearly all levels of aggregation, especially after the early 1990s. Controlling for structural changes in occupational distributions modifies, but does not substantially alter, these findings. Trends are qualitatively similar for men and women. We connect increasing mobility to other macro-economic trends dating back to the 1970s, including changing labor force composition, technologies, employment relations, and industrial structures. We reassert the sociological significance of intragenerational mobility and discuss how increasing variability in occupational transitions within careers may counteract or mask trends in intergenerational mobility, across occupations and across more broadly construed social classes..
  2. ARS
    Genealogical Microdata and Their Significance for Social Science.
    Song, Xi and Cameron D. Campbell.

    Annual Review of Sociology 43: 1.1–1.25. DOI.

    Despite long-standing recognition of the importance of family background in shaping life outcomes, only recently have empirical studies in demography, stratification, and other areas begun to consider the influence of kin other than parents. These new studies reflect the increasing availability of genealogical microdata that provide information about ancestors and kin over three or more generations. These data sets, including family genealogies, linked vital registration records, population registers, longitudinal surveys, and other sources, are valuable resources for social research on family, population, and stratification in a multigenerational perspective. This article reviews relevant recent studies, introduces and presents examples of the most important sources of genealogical microdata, identifies key methodological issues in the construction and analysis of genealogical data, and suggests directions for future research..
  3. Short-Term and Long-Term Educational Mobility of Families: A Two-Sex Approach.
    Song, Xi and Robert D. Mare.

    Demography 54(1): 145–173. DOI.

    We use a multigenerational perspective to investigate how families reproduce and pass their educational advantages to succeeding generations. Unlike traditional mobility studies that have typically focused on one-sex influences from fathers to sons, we rely on a two-sex approach that accounts for interactions between males and females—the process in which males and females mate and have children with those of similar educational statuses and jointly determine the educational status attainment of their offspring. Using data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, we approach this issue from both a short-term and a long-term perspective. For the short term, grandparents’ educational attainments have a direct association with grandchildren’s education as well as an indirect association that is mediated by parents’ education and demographic behaviors. For the long term, initial educational advantages of families may benefit as many as three subsequent generations, but such advantages are later offset by the lower fertility of highly educated persons. Yet, all families eventually achieve the same educational distribution of descendants because of intermarriages between families of high- and low-education origin..


  1. Diverging Mobility Trajectories: Grandparent Effects on Educational Attainment in One- and Two-Parent Families.

    Demography 53(6): 1905–1932. DOI.

    In recent years, sociological research investigating grandparent effects in three-generation social mobility has proliferated, mostly focusing on the question of whether grandparents have a direct effect on their grandchildren's social attainment. This study hypothesizes that prior research has overlooked family structure as an important factor that moderates grandparents' direct effects. Capitalizing on a counterfactual causal framework and multigenerational data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, this study examines the direct effect of grandparents' years of education on grandchildren's years of educational attainment and heterogeneity in the effects associated with family structure. The results show that for both African Americans and whites, grandparent effects are the strongest for grandchildren who grew up in two–parent families, followed by those in single–parent families with divorced parents. The weakest effects were marked in single-parent families with unmarried parents. These findings suggest that the increasing diversity of family forms has led to diverging social mobility trajectories for families across generations..


  1. ASR
    Ancestry Matters: Patrilineage Growth and Extinction.
    Xi Song, Cameron D. Cambell, and James Z. Lee.

    American Sociological Review 80(3): 574–602. DOI.

    Patrilineality, the organization of kinship, inheritance, and other key social processes based on patrilineal male descent, has been a salient feature of social organization in China and many other societies for centuries. Because patrilineage continuity or growth was the central focus of reproductive strategies in such societies, we introduce the number of patrilineal male descendants generations later as a stratification outcome. By reconstructing and analyzing 20,000 patrilineages in two prospective, multi-generational population databases from eighteenth- and nineteenth-century China, we show that patrilineages founded by high-status males had higher growth rates for the next 150 years. The elevated growth rate of these patrilineages was due more to their having a lower probability of extinction at each point in time than to surviving patrilineal male descendants having larger numbers of sons on average. As a result, male descendants of high-status males account for a disproportionately large share of the male population in later generations. In China and elsewhere, patrilineal kin network characteristics influence individuals’ life chances; effects of a male founder’s characteristics on patrilineage size many generations later thus represent an indirect channel of status transmission that has not been considered previously..
  2. SMR
    Prospective Versus Retrospective Approaches to the Study of Intergenerational Social Mobility.
    Song, Xi and Robert D. Mare.

    Sociological Methods and Research 44(4): 555–584. DOI.

    Most intergenerational social mobility studies are based upon retrospective data, in which samples of individuals report socioeconomic information about their parents, an approach that provides representative data for offspring but not the parental generation. When available, prospective data on intergenerational mobility, which are based on a sample of respondents who report on their progeny, have conceptual and practical advantages. Prospective data are especially useful for studying social mobility across more than two generations and for developing joint models of social mobility and demographic processes. Because prospective data remain relatively scarce, we propose a method that corrects retrospective mobility data for the unrepresentativeness of the parental generation and thus permits them to be used for models of social mobility and demographic processes. We illustrate this method using both simulated data and data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics. In our examples, this method removes more than 95 percent of the bias in the retrospective data..
  3. Market Transition Revisited: Changing Regimes of Housing Inequality in China, 1988-2002.

    Sociological Science 1: 277–291. DOI.

    This paper revisits the market transition theory of Nee (1989), using housing as an alternative to income as a measure of socioeconomic attainment. We argue that housing space is a better outcome variable by which to evaluate Nee’s market transition theory because it is a more consistent measure of socioeconomic success than income before and after the economic reform. Using three waves of a national household survey in 1988, 1995, and 2002, we compare temporal changes in the role of market and redistributive determinants for income and housing space. In support of a weak form of the theory, our results show that market determinants replaced redistributive determinants over time as the most significant predictors of housing space. In contrast, parallel analyses of income show mixed results for market and redistributive determinants..


  1. SSR
    Ethnic Stratification in China’s Economic Transition: Evidence from Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.
    Wu, Xiaogang and Xi Song.

    Social Science Research 44: 158–172. DOI.

    This paper analyzes a sample from the 2005 mini-census of Xinjiang to examine ethnic stratification in China’s labor markets, with a special focus on how ethnic earnings inequality varies by employment sector. We show that Han and Uyghur Chinese dominated different economic sectors. Excluding those in agriculture, Uyghurs were more likely to work in government or institutions than either Han locals or migrants, and also more likely to become self-employed. The Han–Uyghur earnings gap was negligible within government/public institutions, but increased with the marketization of the employment sector. It was the largest among the self-employed, followed by employees in private enterprises and then employees in public enterprises. Han migrants in economic sectors enjoyed particular earnings advantages and hukou registration status had no impact on earnings attainment except in government/public institutions. These findings have important implications for understanding social and economic sources of increasing ethnic conflicts in Xinjiang in recent years..