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Floating choices: a generational perspective on intentions of rural – urban migrants in China


  • Zhongshan Yue
  • Shuzhuo Li
  • Marcus W Feldman
  • Haifeng Du


Using data from a 2005 survey of rural – urban migrants in Shenzhen, we investigate the intentions of two groups of migrants. We use the birth years from 1970 to 1980 as a reasonable range of dividing lines to separate the two groups. For each year we divide the sample into those born before that year and those born in or after that year. These are referred to as the old generation and the new generation, respectively. Three possible development trajectories are considered: settling in cities, returning home to seek a nonagricultural job, and returning home to farm. We find that members of the new generation have stronger desires to do nonfarm work, and that returning to seek a nonagricultural job has become the most important planned trajectory for this generation. Sharp differences exist between the two generations in the reasons that underlie their intentions. For the old generation, conditions such as age, family responsibility, and type of job are important determinants of intentions, while other conditions such as initial migration motives, social capital, and socioeconomic conditions of origin areas are important for the intentions of the new generation. Thus the new generation is more likely to view migration as a form of investment with the accumulation of human capital and social capital. Those migrants from the old generation who have higher education levels also intend to seek a nonfarm job. However, because of the combined effects of life cycle and the market transition in China, these intentions are not as strong as those of the new generation. We discuss economic and policy implications of our findings.

Suggested Citation

  • Zhongshan Yue & Shuzhuo Li & Marcus W Feldman & Haifeng Du, 2010. "Floating choices: a generational perspective on intentions of rural – urban migrants in China," Environment and Planning A, Pion Ltd, London, vol. 42(3), pages 545-562, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:pio:envira:v:42:y:2010:i:3:p:545-562

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    Cited by:

    1. Kilian Pamela Hartmann & Kraas Frauke & Schiller Daniel, 2012. "Workplace quality and labour turnover in the electronics industry of the Pearl River Delta, China," Zeitschrift für Wirtschaftsgeographie, De Gruyter, vol. 56(1-2), pages 58-79, October.

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