I joined the faculty of the Department of Sociology at Harvard in fall 2000, after previously teaching at the University of Michigan and George Washington University. In a sense it is a homecoming for me, since I did my graduate work at Harvard in the 1960s, with many hours logged in William James Hall. To learn more about my personal and academic history, please consult my Personal Background Statement. For a Chinese interview about my background and research, see Chinese Interview. For more details on my scholarly publications and other activities, please consult my Curriculum Vitae.
My primary research and teaching specialties are comparative sociology, sociology of the family, sociology of development, the sociological study of contemporary China, and the study of post-communist transitions. My recent writings reflect these divergent interests: an edited volume entitled Marriage in America: A Communitarian Perspective (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2000) and an edited collection of papers drawing on a survey project that focused on relations between aging parents and their grown children in urban Chinese families, entitled China's Revolutions and Inter-Generational Relations (Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Center for Chinese Studies, 2003).
My primary research project since joining the faculty at Harvard centers on a series of surveys I have directed to determine how Chinese citizens view the rising gaps between rich and poor in their society. A pilot survey for this project was successfully conducted in Beijing in December 2000. A national survey focusing on inequality and distributive justice issues was completed in the summer of 2004. The results of the 2004 survey have been published in my book, Myth of the Social Volcano (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2010) as well as in a number of recent articles (see Publications link). In the fall of 2009 colleagues and I directed a five-year follow-up national survey of Chinese popular attitudes toward current inequalities. The goal of this second national survey was to determine whether later trends, including the global financial crisis that erupted in 2008, made Chinese citizens more or less critical of the market-based inequalities within which they now live. In 2014 I teamed up with two Norwegian China specialists, Kristin Dalen and Hedda Flatø, to carry out a third follow-up China national survey on popular attitudes toward that country’s rising income gaps. As I transition into retirement from teaching at Harvard, I plan to continue to use the data from all of these China surveys to examine how Chinese attitudes toward distributive justice issues have evolved in the new millennium.
Also, in 2006 I organized a conference at Harvard's Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies on the rural-urban gap in China, and I subsequently edited the resulting conference volume: One Country, Two Societies: Rural-Urban Inequality in Contemporary China (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2010). I have also from time to time published articles on other topics, particularly the puzzle of explaining how the Chinese economy has grown so rapidly in the post-Mao era and critical examinations of population trends and China’s controversial one-child policy.
Before retiring I regularly taught a range of courses reflecting these interests. At the undergraduate level I offered courses on contemporary Chinese society, most recently under the General Education course title, “Societies of the World 21: China’s Two Social Revolutions.” I also regularly taught an undergraduate course on the sociology of American family life. At the graduate level I offered a seminar on contemporary China with a focus on inequality and stratification trends, a seminar on the sociology of families and kinship, and a seminar on the sociology of economic development.