Economic Sociology Lab

Center Links Economy and Society to Study Changing World

James Dean, Cornell Chronicle

“As its founding director 20 years ago, Victor Nee didn’t imagine the Center for the Study of Economy and Society (CSES) taking an interest in New York City’s tech economy. The city hardly had one to speak of – on par with Philadelphia’s, and a bit player compared to financial services, real estate or tourism.

Now, New York claims the nation’s second-largest tech economy after Silicon Valley, and the development of regional knowledge economies is one of several primary areas of research focus for the center’s Economic Sociology Lab, supported by graduate researchers and undergraduate assistants.”

Read more on the Cornell Chronicle

Social Science Research Publication: Homophily & Career Mobility in China



Congratulations to Sonja Opper, Victor Nee, and Stefan Brehm for their recent publication “Homophily in the career mobility of China’s political elite” in Social Science Research.

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  • The first paper to explore the role of homophily in political elite recruitment in China.
  • The first paper to show that homophily constitutes a significant factor in promotion of leaders to the top echelon of China’s ruling elite.
  • The study shows, homophily works independently of factional ties and economic performance.
  • The effect of homophily is even more decisive in the sub-sample of turnover candidates.


We argue that leadership promotion in China’s political elite relies on homophily for signals of trustworthiness and future cooperative behavior more than on economic performance. We first point to the limitation of the economic performance argument from within the framework of China’s specific M-form state structure, and then we proffer a sociological explanation for why higher-level elites in China rely on homophilous associations in recruiting middle-level elites to the top positions of state. Using a unique dataset covering China’s provincial leaders from 1979 to 2011, we develop a homophily index focusing on joint origin, joint education and joint work experience. We trace personal similarities in these respects between provincial leaders and members of China’s supreme decision-making body, the Politbureau’s Standing Committee. We then provide robust evidence confirming the persisting impact of homophilous associations on promotion patterns in post-reform China.

About Journal

Social Science Research publishes papers devoted to quantitative social science research and methodology. The journal features articles that illustrate the use of quantitative methods to empirically test social science theory. The journal emphasizes research concerned with issues or methods that cut across traditional disciplinary lines. Special attention is given to methods that have been used by only one particular social science discipline, but that may have application to a broader range of areas with an ultimate goal of testing social science theory.

Interview Series

CSES Interview Series: Victor Nee

The Economy & Society Interview Series is a casual yet intellectually engaging conversation with leading scholars throughout the social sciences. The interview series is produced by the Center for the Study of Economy and Society (CSES) at Cornell University. In this interview, Victor Nee–Frank and Rosa Rhodes Professor in the Department of Sociology at Cornell University and the Director of the Center for the Study of Economy and Society–discusses his educational background, research trajectory, recent book and empirical findings, insights into sociology and economics, and future trends.

Harvard University Press:
Capitalism from Below: Markets and Institutional Change in China

Main Research Findings by Victor Nee:
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Future Research Agenda by Victor Nee:
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Lecture Series

CSES Director Victor Nee Wins the George R. Terry Book Award

Victor Nee, the Frank and Rosa Rhodes Professor at Cornell University and Director of the Center for the Study of Economy and Society, has received one of the highest scholarly honors that the Academy of Management can bestow on a scholar: the 2013 George R. Terry Book Award. The Terry Book Award was given to Victor Nee and Sonja Opper for their ground breaking book Capitalism from Below: Markets and Institutional Change in China.

The George R. Terry Book Award is granted annually to the book judged to have made the most outstanding contribution to the advancement of management knowledge and published during the past two years (2012-2013). The Academy of Management is an international association with over 19,000 members. The award was presented at its recent annual meeting in Orlando, Florida.

Capitalism from Below: Markets and Institutional Change in China asks the big question: how does one account for the emergence of a thriving private enterprise economy in a communist state that until 35 years ago vigorously suppressed capitalism? Nee and Opper provide an insightful analysis of how private enterprise bubbled up from below to overcome impediments set up by the Chinese government and drive the engine of China’s economic miracle. Studying over 700 manufacturing firms in the Yangzi region, the book argues that through trial and error, entrepreneurs devised institutional innovations that enabled them to decouple from the established economic order to start up and grow small, private manufacturing firms. Barriers to entry motivated them to build their own networks of suppliers and distributors, and to develop competitive advantage in self-organized industrial clusters. Close-knit groups of like-minded people participated in the emergence of private enterprise by offering financing and establishing reliable business norms. This rapidly growing private enterprise economy diffused throughout the coastal regions of China and, passing through a series of tipping points, eroded the market share of state-owned firms. Only after this fledgling economy emerged as a dynamic engine of economic growth, wealth creation, and manufacturing jobs did the political elite legitimize it as a way to jump-start China’s market society. Today, this private enterprise economy is one of the greatest success stories in the history of capitalism.

Nee is the author or editor of five other books, including On Capitalism by Stanford University Press 2007, The Economic Sociology of Capitalism by Princeton University Press 2005, Remaking the American Mainstream: Assimilation and the New Immigration by Harvard University Press 2003, and The New Institutionalism in Sociology by Harvard University Press 1998.

Book Talk with Professor Victor Nee

Please join us for a book talk with Victor Nee (Professor and Director of CSES) on September 19th, 2012. Prof. Nee will discuss his new book Capitalism from Below: Markets and Institutional Change in China, Harvard University Press. Following the talk, Prof. Nee will lead a question and answer session. Light refreshments will be available throughout the event, and books will be available for purchase and signing.

citation engraving
“Actors do not behave or decide as atoms outside a social context ... Their attempts at purposive action are instead embedded in concrete, ongoing systems of social relations.”— Mark Granovetter