Past Event

The Urbanization of People – The Politics of Development, Labor Markets, and Schooling in the Chinese City

November 17, 2022
12:00 PM - 1:30 PM
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School of International and Public Affairs, 420 West 118th Street, Room 918, New York, NY 10027 Show Map


  • To register to attend this event in-person, please register HERE. *Please note that non-CUID holders need to show proof of their primary series and one booster dose of COVID-19 vaccines.
  • To register to attend this event online, please register HERE. 

Speaker: Eli Friedman, Associate Professor and Chair of International and Comparative Labor, Cornell University International and Comparative Labor School

Moderator: Yao Lu, Professor of Sociology, Columbia University

The Urbanization of People (May 2022, Columbia University Press) reveals how cities in China have granted public goods to the privileged while condemning poor and working-class migrants to insecurity, constant mobility, and degraded educational opportunities. Using the school as a lens on urban life, Eli Friedman investigates how the state manages flows of people into the city. He demonstrates that urban governments are providing quality public education to those who need it least: school admissions for nonlocals heavily favor families with high levels of economic and cultural capital. Those deemed not useful are left to enroll their children in precarious resource-starved private schools that sometimes are subjected to forced demolition. Over time, these populations are shunted away to smaller locales with inferior public services. Based on extensive ethnographic research and hundreds of in-depth interviews, this interdisciplinary book details the policy framework that produces unequal outcomes as well as providing a fine-grained account of the life experiences of people drawn into the cities as workers but excluded as full citizens.

Speaker's Bio:

Eli Friedman is associate professor and chair of international and comparative labor at Cornell University’s ILR School. His primary areas of interest are China, development, education, social movements, urbanization, and work and labor. He is the author of Insurgency Trap: Labor Politics in Postsocialist China (2014) and coeditor of the English edition of China on Strike: Narratives of Workers’ Resistance (2016). Eli currently has two major research projects, the first of which looks at state responses to worker unrest in China and the development of labor relations institutions. The second project is a study of Chinese urbanization, with a particular focus on access to education for rural to urban migrants. He is also the faculty advisor for the Cornell Labor Action Tracker, which is an effort to capture data on a broader range of worker strikes and protests than is currently available.

This event is part of the 2022-2023 lecture series on “Urbanization, Well-being, and Public Policy: China from Comparative Perspectives” and is sponsored by the Weatherhead East Asian Institute and cosponsored by Columbia's China Center for Social Policy. 

Contact Information

Julie Kwan