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Strong versus Weak Ties in Migration


  • Giulietti, Corrado
  • Wahba, Jackline
  • Zenou, Yves


This paper studies the role of strong versus weak ties in the rural-to-urban migration decision in China. We first develop a network model that puts forward the different roles of weak and strong ties in helping workers to migrate to the city. We then use a unique longitudinal data that allows us to test our model by focusing on first-time migration. Strong ties are measured by the closest family contact (excluding household members) while weak ties are determined by the fraction of migrants from the village in which the individual resides. We address the endogeneity of the network formation in the migration decision. Our results indicate that both weak and strong ties matter in the migration decision process, although the impact of weak ties is higher than that of strong ties. We also show that one underestimates the effect of social networks on migration by not taking into account the strong ties in the mobility process. We finally find that weak and strong ties act as complements in the migration decision, which indicates that the interactive effect between weak and strong ties is particularly strong above a certain threshold of the size of weak ties.

Suggested Citation

  • Giulietti, Corrado & Wahba, Jackline & Zenou, Yves, 2014. "Strong versus Weak Ties in Migration," CEPR Discussion Papers 10248, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:10248

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Wahba, Jackline & Zenou, Yves, 2012. "Out of sight, out of mind: Migration, entrepreneurship and social capital," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 42(5), pages 890-903.
    2. Patrick Bayer & Stephen L. Ross & Giorgio Topa, 2008. "Place of Work and Place of Residence: Informal Hiring Networks and Labor Market Outcomes," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 116(6), pages 1150-1196, December.
    3. Simone Bertoli & Jesus Fernández-Huertas Moraga, 2012. "Visa Policies, Networks and the Cliff at the Border," Working Papers 2012-12, FEDEA.
    4. John Giles & Kyeongwon Yoo, 2007. "Precautionary Behavior, Migrant Networks, and Household Consumption Decisions: An Empirical Analysis Using Household Panel Data from Rural China," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 89(3), pages 534-551, August.
    5. Yannis M. Ioannides & Linda Datcher Loury, 2004. "Job Information Networks, Neighborhood Effects, and Inequality," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 42(4), pages 1056-1093, December.
    6. Wahba, Jackline & Zenou, Yves, 2005. "Density, social networks and job search methods: Theory and application to Egypt," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 78(2), pages 443-473, December.
    7. Orrenius, Pia M. & Zavodny, Madeline, 2005. "Self-selection among undocumented immigrants from Mexico," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 78(1), pages 215-240, October.
    8. Mckenzie, David & Rapoport, Hillel, 2007. "Network effects and the dynamics of migration and inequality: Theory and evidence from Mexico," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 84(1), pages 1-24, September.
    9. Long, Wenjin & Appleton, Simon & Song, Lina, 2013. "Job Contact Networks and Wages of Rural-Urban Migrants in China," IZA Discussion Papers 7577, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    10. Lee, Lung-fei, 2007. "Identification and estimation of econometric models with group interactions, contextual factors and fixed effects," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 140(2), pages 333-374, October.
    11. Giorgio Topa, 2001. "Social Interactions, Local Spillovers and Unemployment," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 68(2), pages 261-295.
    12. David McKenzie & Hillel Rapoport, 2010. "Self-Selection Patterns in Mexico-U.S. Migration: The Role of Migration Networks," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 92(4), pages 811-821, November.
    13. Michel Beine & Christopher Parsons, 2015. "Climatic Factors as Determinants of International Migration," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 117(2), pages 723-767, April.
    14. Sarah Dolfin & Garance Genicot, 2010. "What Do Networks Do? The Role of Networks on Migration and "Coyote" Use," Review of Development Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 14(2), pages 343-359, May.
    15. Yaohui Zhao, 2003. "The Role of Migrant Networks in Labor Migration: The Case of China," Contemporary Economic Policy, Western Economic Association International, vol. 21(4), pages 500-511, October.
    16. Mehtap Akgüç & Corrado Giulietti & Klaus Zimmermann, 2014. "The RUMiC longitudinal survey: fostering research on labor markets in China," IZA Journal of Labor & Development, Springer;Forschungsinstitut zur Zukunft der Arbeit GmbH (IZA), vol. 3(1), pages 1-14, December.
    17. Yannis M. Ioannides, 2012. "From Neighborhoods to Nations: The Economics of Social Interactions," Economics Books, Princeton University Press, edition 1, number 9892.
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    Cited by:

    1. Deepti Goel & Kevin Lang, 2009. "Social Ties and the Job Search of Recent Immigrants," NBER Working Papers 15186, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Ha, Wei & Yi, Junjian & Yuan, Ye & Zhang, Junsen, 2016. "The dynamic effect of rural-to-urban migration on inequality in source villages: System GMM estimates from rural China," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 37(C), pages 27-39.
    3. Brueckner, Jan K. & Lall, Somik V., 2015. "Cities in Developing Countries," Handbook of Regional and Urban Economics, Elsevier.
    4. Bosker,Maarten & Deichmann,Uwe & Roberts,Mark, 2015. "Hukou and highways : the impact of China?s spatial development policies on urbanization and regional inequality," Policy Research Working Paper Series 7350, The World Bank.
    5. Verdier, Thierry & Zenou, Yves, 2017. "The role of social networks in cultural assimilation," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 97(C), pages 15-39.
    6. Fang, Tony & Gunderson, Morley & Lin, Carl, 2016. "The use and impact of job search procedures by migrant workers in China," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 37(C), pages 154-165.
    7. repec:luc:wpaper:15-14 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item


    China; internal migration; social networks;

    JEL classification:

    • J61 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Geographic Labor Mobility; Immigrant Workers
    • O15 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration

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