English version of forthcoming paper on the organizational demography of the Qing civil service

社會科學研究 (Social Science Research) published by the Sichuan Academy of Social Science has accepted our paper “The Organizational Demography of the Qing Civil Service, 1830-1911” and tentatively scheduled it for publication in 2024. In the meantime, they have given permission for us to share the original English language version:

The Organizational Demography of the Qing Civil Service, 1830-1911

Please cite the Chinese language version if you refer to it:

康文林 (Cameron Campbell) and 高帅奇(Gao Shuaiqi). 2024. 清代文官的组织人口学研究, 1830-1911 (The Organizational Demography of the Qing Civil Service, 1830-1911). 社会科学研究 (Social Science Research). 1:161-173.

The paper is largely descriptive. It uses the CGED-Q JSL to measure the turnover of officials, career lengths, and years since appointment for currently serving officials. It was inspired by the older literature on organizational demography that sought to relate the performance of organizations to aggregate ‘demographic’ features such as their turnover, length of service and so forth. We hope that it will be a useful reference for anyone studying Qing officialdom. Previous studies of the dynamics of Qing official have focused on the lengths of appointments to specific posts, and turnover in those posts, rather than entire careers.

Here is the abstract:

We study the organizational demography of the Qing civil service from 1830 to 1911. Before the 20th century, the Qing bureaucracy was one of the largest non-military organizations in the world in terms of numbers of regular employees. At any given time, approximately 13,000 officials held formal appointments. We present the basic features of its organizational demography using data on nearly all civil officials with formal appointments from 1830 to 1912. We make use of longitudinally linked records of officials in the China Government Employee Database – Jinshenlu (CGED-Q JSL) to reconstruct rates of exit from service, the career lengths of officials, and the number of years since first appointment for currently serving officials. While previous studies of the Qing have examined turnover in specific types of posts, they have not considered the dynamics of complete careers. We find that exit rates in the first year of service were high and then low and stable afterward. While most officials only served for a short time, currently serving officials were relatively experienced. We also show that rates of exit from service declined for much of the last half of the 19th century, and then increased in the first decade of the 20th century. Declining turnover in the last half of the 19th century would have reduced opportunities for degree holders seeking posts and for officials seeking promotion at a time when the number of holders of purchased degrees competing for posts was increasing. We also compare different categories of officials. The results not only illuminate basic features of the organizational demography of Qing officialdom, but also provide a baseline for interpreting results from case studies of specific groups of officials or specific time periods.

Here’s a figure from the paper, presenting time trends in rates of exit from service in the next three months for officials with different amounts of experience: