Eating from the “Rice Bowl of Youth”: Gender Ideologies and School-to-Work Transitions in Urban China
Terry Woronov

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship

Award Year



University of Arizona

Primary Discipline

This project examines the school-to-work transition of a group of working-class teenage girls in Nanjing, China. Evidence suggests that changing gender ideologies about appropriate work for women in the new Chinese economy is increasingly limiting young women to “rice bowl of youth” jobs, where they convert their youth and beauty into potentially lucrative – but very short term – careers that briefly “fill their rice bowls.” Hypothesizing that young women from working-class families enrolled in vocational and technical schools may be more likely to enter the “rice bowl of youth” economy, this project focuses on a group of graduating high school seniors. In collaboration with a Chinese scholar, this ethnographic research projects seeks to understand how young women are preparing to enter this new labor market, through a close study of their daily lives inside and outside school. What kinds of practices prepare these young women for jobs, including diet, exercise, make-up, and other forms of bodily transformations? How relevant is their school training relevant for their future work?Our goal is to better understand the relevance of vocational education for women entering a highly discriminatory labor market. This work will contribute to our understanding of the links between gender, age, class, and education, building on the existing literature on gendered youth cultures and the school-to-work transition in the West. A close study of the academic and embodied practices young women engage in to increase their marketability will enhance our understanding of life in contemporary China, and the effects the transition to a market economy has had on a generation of Chinese youth.
About Terry Woronov

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