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Great Expectations? The Subjective Well-being of Rural-Urban Migrants in China

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  • Knight, John
  • Gunatilaka, Ramani

Abstract

Summary This paper is among the first to link the literatures on migration and on subjective well-being in developing countries. It poses the question: why do rural-urban migrant households settled in urban China have an average happiness score lower than rural households? Three basic hypotheses are examined: migrants had false expectations about their future urban conditions, or about their future urban aspirations, or about their future selves. Estimated happiness functions and decomposition analyses, based on a 2002 national household survey, indicate that certain features of migrant conditions make for unhappiness, and that their high aspirations in relation to achievement, influenced by their new reference groups, also make for unhappiness. Although the possibility of selection bias among migrants cannot be ruled out, it is apparently difficult for migrants to form unbiased expectations about life in a new and different world.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Elsevier in its journal World Development.

Volume (Year): 38 (2010)
Issue (Month): 1 (January)
Pages: 113-124

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Handle: RePEc:eee:wdevel:v:38:y:2010:i:1:p:113-124

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Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/worlddev

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Keywords: aspirations China happiness relative deprivation rural-urban migration subjective well-being;

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References

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  1. Rabin, Matthew, 1997. "Psychology and Economics," Department of Economics, Working Paper Series qt8jd5z5j2, Department of Economics, Institute for Business and Economic Research, UC Berkeley.
  2. Fafchamps, Marcel & Shilpi, Forhad, 2006. "Subjective Welfare, Isolation and Relative Consumption," CEPR Discussion Papers 6002, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  3. Ada Ferrer-i-Carbonell & Paul Frijters, 2002. "How important is Methodology for the Estimates of the Determinants of Happiness?," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 02-024/3, Tinbergen Institute.
  4. Alois Stutzer & Bruno S. Frey, . "Stress That Doesn't Pay: The Commuting Paradox," IEW - Working Papers 151, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  5. Rachel Sabates-Wheeler & Ricardo Sabates & Adriana Castaldo, 2008. "Tackling Poverty-migration Linkages: Evidence from Ghana and Egypt," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 87(2), pages 307-328, June.
  6. Easterlin, Richard A, 2001. "Income and Happiness: Towards an Unified Theory," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 111(473), pages 465-84, July.
  7. Zhao, Yaohui, 1999. "Labor Migration and Earnings Differences: The Case of Rural China," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 47(4), pages 767-82, July.
  8. Geeta Kingdon & John Knight, 2004. "Community, Comparisons and Subjective Well-being in a Divided Society," Development and Comp Systems 0409067, EconWPA.
  9. Christopher F Baum & Vince Wiggins & Steven Stillman & Mark E Schaffer, 1999. "OVERID: Stata module to calculate tests of overidentifying restrictions after ivreg, ivreg2, ivreg29, ivprobit, ivtobit, reg3," Statistical Software Components S396902, Boston College Department of Economics, revised 26 Apr 2010.
  10. Christopher F Baum & Mark E. Schaffer & Steven Stillman, 2003. "Instrumental variables and GMM: Estimation and testing," Stata Journal, StataCorp LP, vol. 3(1), pages 1-31, March.
  11. C. Graham & S. Pettinato, 2002. "Frustrated Achievers: Winners, Losers and Subjective Well-Being in New Market Economies," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 38(4), pages 100-140.
  12. Andrew E. Clark & Paul Frijters & Michael A. Shields, 2008. "Relative Income, Happiness, and Utility: An Explanation for the Easterlin Paradox and Other Puzzles," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 46(1), pages 95-144, March.
  13. Knight, John & Song, Lina, 1999. "The Rural-Urban Divide: Economic Disparities and Interactions in China," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198293309, September.
  14. Stark, Oded & Taylor, J Edward, 1991. "Migration Incentives, Migration Types: The Role of Relative Deprivation," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 101(408), pages 1163-78, September.
  15. John Knight & Ramani Gunatilaka, 2010. "The Rural-Urban Divide in China: Income but Not Happiness?," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 46(3), pages 506-534.
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