Educational Transition and Social Networks Preliminary Findings from Recent High School Graduates in Urban Nanjing

Thursday, July 17, 2014: 9:45 AM
Room: Booth 42
Distributed Paper
Gina LAI , Hong Kong Baptist University, Hong Kong
Odalia WONG , Hong Kong Baptist University, Hong Kong
Danching RUAN , Sociology, Hong Kong Baptist University, Hong Kong, Hong Kong
The formation of social networks is a not a random process. It is a result of the combined forces of macrostructural conditions, which provide differential opportunities to meet members of different social groups, and the tendency of people forming social relations with similar others. The macrostructural conditions are often presented in the form of social organizations. School is a major social organization in contemporary societies; there many individuals spend an extended period of time on acquiring knowledge and skills. During the course of schooling, individuals often move from one educational institution to another. A change of educational institutions would then lead to a change of macrostructural settings for social network formation. Existing studies have mainly focused the correlates of social network formation at one time point or social network changes across different time points. Little is understood about the network impact of macrostructural changes associated with life course transitions.
The present paper investigates the relationship between educational transition and social networks in China. Data come from a two-wave panel study of 759 recent high school graduates in urban Nanjing, a vast majority of whom (98.4%) were enrolled in post-secondary education in 2012. Two research issues are addressed. First, what is the network impact of transition to higher education? Chinese universities are stratified into key universities and non-key ones, which differ significantly in resource input and prestige. Differences in network changes between these two types of universities are compared. Second, how may participation in extracurricular activities and part-time employment, two major aspects of university life, affect the social network structure? Changes in network size and diversity are measured. Preliminary findings show that transition to key university, extracurricular activities, and part-time employment are related to an expanded social network and increase in network diversity. Implications of the findings will be discussed.