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Title: Social Mobility with Chinese Characteristics: How the Hùkǒu System Perpetuates Inequality of Opportunities for Migrant Children in the People’s Republic of China
Authors: Finley, Marina
Advisors: Flaherty, Martin
Department: Woodrow Wilson School
Certificate Program: East Asian Studies Program
Class Year: 2019
Abstract: Much of the literature on the hukou system and internal migration in the People’s Republic of China assumes that rural-to-urban migration universally improves migrants’ life outcomes relative to their peers who stay in the countryside. But this conclusion is based on literature primarily focused on migrant workers, not migrant children. To transpose this conclusion onto migrant children may overlook key differences in the hukou system’s treatment of adult migrant workers versus migrant children. In this paper, I posit that rural-to-urban childhood migration in the People’s Republic of China may not be universally positive for migrant children’s life outcomes and may have deleterious effects on migrant children’s social mobility. I examine this hypothesis through a mixed methods analysis. First I juxtapose two disparate sets of academic literature, on (1) intergenerational mobility and (2) migrant children in China’s hukou system, in order to consider the impacts of the hukou system on migrant children’s social mobility. Then, using the hypothesis drawn from connecting the two sets of literature, I conduct statistical analyses to measure the effect of rural-to-urban childhood migration on migrant children’s educational and occupational outcomes. Controlling for a variety of pre-treatment characteristics and geographic fixed effects, my data analysis suggests that rural-to-urban childhood migration has some significant and substantial positive effects on migrant children’s social mobility. Migration increases rural-born children’s years of schooling completed and income earned, but the data fails to reveal a relationship of statistical significance between migration and occupational mobility, either in terms of job status or type. I suggest that, in terms of research, more data needs to be collected analyzing the connections between rural-to-urban childhood migration and occupational mobility over the course of people’s careers. In terms of policy, the great divide in social mobility between rural and urban hukou holders cannot be eradicated without fundamental reform to the hukou system. Migrant workers will need, protected in law, equal access as other urban residents to social safety net benefits, and migrant children will need equal access to public education for their social mobility opportunities to eventually converge with those of their urban hukou peers.
Type of Material: Princeton University Senior Theses
Language: en
Appears in Collections:East Asian Studies Program, 2017
Woodrow Wilson School, 1929-2019

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