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Permanent and temporary rural–urban migration in China: Evidence from field surveys


  • Meng, Lei
  • Zhao, Min Qiang


We use a unique, self-collected dataset to study the trade-offs between rural land holding and urban hukou facing Chinese rural households. Exploring the criteria used in the initial land allocation in the early 1980s, we argue that our finding of a negative relationship between land holding and permanent migration in terms of hukou change has a causal interpretation. We also contribute to the literature by empirically examining the impact of land holding on temporary and permanent migration decisions simultaneously. We find that land holding reduces the likelihood of permanent migration but has a smaller effect on temporary migration decisions. Using a hypothetical survey question, we find that providing full access to urban social benefits to even “landless” households would result in only a moderate increase in the number of rural individuals intending to settle permanently in urban areas. Our results suggest that reforms of rural land rights and urban social benefits alone may not be sufficient to attract a large proportion of rural individuals to permanently settle in urban areas.

Suggested Citation

  • Meng, Lei & Zhao, Min Qiang, 2018. "Permanent and temporary rural–urban migration in China: Evidence from field surveys," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 51(C), pages 228-239.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:chieco:v:51:y:2018:i:c:p:228-239
    DOI: 10.1016/j.chieco.2017.10.001

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. GAO Tianming & Anna Ivolga & Vasilii Erokhin, 2018. "Sustainable Rural Development in Northern China: Caught in a Vice between Poverty, Urban Attractions, and Migration," Sustainability, MDPI, vol. 10(5), pages 1-20, May.
    2. Chong Lu & Ailin Wu, 0. "The Household Registration Threshold and Peasant Worker Decision-Making over Acquiring Urban Hukou in China," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 0, pages 1-26.
    3. Shaoyao Zhang & Xueqian Song & Jiangjun Wan & Ying Liu & Wei Deng, 2019. "The Features of Rural Labor Transfer and Cultural Differences: Evidence from China’s Southwest Mountainous Areas," Sustainability, MDPI, vol. 11(6), pages 1-15, March.
    4. Hao Cui & Joonmo Cho, 2020. "Does the Revised Hukou System Facilitate or Restrain the Short-Term Labor Inflows into Chinese Cities?," Sustainability, MDPI, vol. 12(4), pages 1-15, February.
    5. Wang, Chunchao & Zhang, Chenglei & Ni, Jinlan & Zhang, Haifeng & Zhang, Junsen, 2019. "Family migration in China: Do migrant children affect parental settlement intention?," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 47(2), pages 416-428.
    6. Sihong Xiong & Ya Wu & Shihai Wu & Fang Chen & Jianzhong Yan, 2020. "Determinants of migration decision-making for rural households: a case study in Chongqing, China," Natural Hazards: Journal of the International Society for the Prevention and Mitigation of Natural Hazards, Springer;International Society for the Prevention and Mitigation of Natural Hazards, vol. 104(2), pages 1623-1639, November.
    7. Gao, Jia & Song, Ge & Sun, Xueqing, 2020. "Does labor migration affect rural land transfer? Evidence from China," Land Use Policy, Elsevier, vol. 99(C).
    8. Xiaomei Fan & Hongguang Liu & Zimeng Zhang & Jie Zhang, 2018. "The Spatio-Temporal Characteristics and Modeling Research of Inter-Provincial Migration in China," Sustainability, MDPI, vol. 10(3), pages 1-14, February.

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    More about this item


    Rural–urban migration; Land holding; Social benefits; Hukou;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • J61 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Geographic Labor Mobility; Immigrant Workers
    • R23 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - Household Analysis - - - Regional Migration; Regional Labor Markets; Population
    • Q15 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Agriculture - - - Land Ownership and Tenure; Land Reform; Land Use; Irrigation; Agriculture and Environment


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