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The Education Gap of China’s Migrant Children and Rural Counterparts


  • Xiaobing Wang
  • Renfu Luo
  • Linxiu Zhang
  • Scott Rozelle


Rural residents in China today face at least two key decisions: a) where to live and work; and b) where to send their children to school. In this paper we study the second decision: should a rural parent send their child to a public rural school or have him or her attend a private migrant school in the city. While there is an existing literature on the impact of this decision on student academic performance, one of the main shortcomings of current studies is that the data that are used to analyse this issue are not fully comparable. To fill the gap, we collected data on the educational performance of both migrant students who were born in and come from specific source communities (prefecture) in rural China and students who are in rural public schools in the same source communities. Specifically, the dataset facilitates our effort to measure and identity the academic gap between the students in private migrant schools in Shanghai and Suzhou and those in the public rural schools in Anhui. We also seek to identify different sources of the gap, including selection effects and observable school quality effects. According to the results of the analysis, there is a large gap. Students in public rural schools outperform students in private migrant schools by more than one standard deviation (SD). We found that selection effects only account for a small part of this gap. Both school facility effects and teacher effects explain the achievement gap of the students from the two types of schools, although these effects occur in opposite directions.

Suggested Citation

  • Xiaobing Wang & Renfu Luo & Linxiu Zhang & Scott Rozelle, 2017. "The Education Gap of China’s Migrant Children and Rural Counterparts," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 53(11), pages 1865-1881, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:jdevst:v:53:y:2017:i:11:p:1865-1881
    DOI: 10.1080/00220388.2016.1274395

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    Cited by:

    1. Zhao, Qiran & Wang, Xiaobing & Rozelle, Scott, 2019. "Better cognition, better school performance? Evidence from primary schools in China," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 55(C), pages 199-217.
    2. Xu, Limin & Cheung, Monit & Leung, Patrick & Xu, Yongxiang, 2018. "Migrant child phenomenon in China: Subjective happiness factors for assessing service needs," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 90(C), pages 66-73.
    3. Wang, Haining & Cheng, Zhiming & Smyth, Russell, 2018. "Do migrant students affect local students’ academic achievements in urban China?," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 63(C), pages 64-77.
    4. Li, Yiping & Zhang, Heqing & Zhang, Dian & Abrahams, Richard, 2019. "Mediating urban transition through rural tourism," Annals of Tourism Research, Elsevier, vol. 75(C), pages 152-164.
    5. Min, Shi & Yuan, Zhouhang & Wang, Xiaobing & Hou, Lingling, 2019. "Do peer effects influence the academic performance of rural students at private migrant schools in China?," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 54(C), pages 418-433.
    6. Lara Cockx, 2019. "Moving Towards a Better Future? Migration and Children's Health and Education," LICOS Discussion Papers 41119, LICOS - Centre for Institutions and Economic Performance, KU Leuven.
    7. Chen, Qihui & Wang, Xiaobing & Zhao, Qiran, 2019. "Appearance Discrimination in Grading? − Evidence from Migrant Schools in China," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 181(C), pages 116-119.

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