The selectivity of internal migration in China

Authors: Xiaxia Yang*, University of Washington
Topics: Migration, China, Population Geography
Keywords: Migration, China, social reproduction, hukou
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/9/2020
Start / End Time: 1:45 PM / 3:00 PM
Room: Plaza Court 4, Sheraton, Concourse Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Migration is selective. For the case of internal migration in China, this process happens under intensive state interference with the hukou system at its core. The process singles out the young and healthy to the migration destinations and filters out the old and frail at the migration origins. Through synthesizing three bodies of literature, this research develops a selective migration model, in which the maintenance of labor power is running at its lowest possible costs by extracting the healthy working-age population to the industrial cities, while the renewal of labor power is operating at its lowest costs in the rural areas. Spatially, the urban society passes on the costs of labor renewal to the rural society. Administratively, the central state delegates obligations of social reproduction to local governments, yet the local governments try to push the responsibility around. Empirical evidence is provided to back up the selective migration model in two aspects, age and health. Under the effect of selective migration, coastal industrial areas, namely major receiving areas, have very low urban non-hukou population dependency ratio, while inland rural areas, namely major sending areas, have rather high rural hukou population dependency ratio. More notably, children migration rate is remarkably low in China, suggesting children are particularly not favored in the destinations. In terms of health status, seven out of nine health indicators support the idea that non-hukou migrants are overall healthier than hukou locals. Future research can build on the selective migration model to scrutinize various inequalities faced by migrants.

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