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Left-Behind Children and Return Decisions of Rural Migrants in China


  • Démurger, Sylvie

    () (CNRS, GATE)

  • Xu, Hui

    () (Beijing Normal University)


This paper examines how left-behind children influence return migration in China. We first present a simple illustrative model based on Dustmann (2003) that incorporates economic and non-economic motives for migration duration (or intentions to return), among which are parents' concerns about the well-being of their left-behind children. We then propose two complementary empirical tests based on data we collected from rural households in Wuwei county (Anhui province) in fall 2008. We first use a discrete-time proportional hazard model to estimate the determinants of migration duration for both on-going migrants with an incomplete length of duration and return migrants with a complete length of duration. Second, we apply a binary Probit model to study the return intentions of on-going migrants. Both models yield consistent results regarding the role of left-behind children as a significant motive for return. First, left-behind children are found to draw their parents back to the village, the effect being stronger for pre-school children. Second, sons are found to play a more important role than daughters in reducing migration duration.

Suggested Citation

  • Démurger, Sylvie & Xu, Hui, 2013. "Left-Behind Children and Return Decisions of Rural Migrants in China," IZA Discussion Papers 7727, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp7727

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Sylvie Démurger & Li Shi, 2012. "Migration, Remittances and Rural Employment Patterns : Evidence from China," Working Papers 1230, Groupe d'Analyse et de Théorie Economique Lyon St-Étienne (GATE Lyon St-Étienne), Université de Lyon.
    2. Sylvie Démurger, 2012. "Mapping modes of rural labour migration in China," Post-Print halshs-00957628, HAL.
    3. Nguyen, Duc Loc & Grote, Ulrike, 2015. "Rural-Urban Migrants in Vietnam: Should we Stay in the Cities or Return Home?," 2015 Conference, August 9-14, 2015, Milan, Italy 229380, International Association of Agricultural Economists.
    4. repec:hal:wpaper:halshs-00744438 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Ardiana Gashi & Nick Adnett, 2015. "The Determinants of Return Migration: Evidence for Kosovo," Croatian Economic Survey, The Institute of Economics, Zagreb, vol. 17(2), pages 57-81, December.
    6. Pamela Lenton & Lu Yin, 2016. "The Educational Success of China’s Young Generation of Rural-to-Urban Migrants," Working Papers 2016007, The University of Sheffield, Department of Economics.
    7. repec:spr:izamig:v:7:y:2017:i:1:d:10.1186_s40176-017-0089-z is not listed on IDEAS
    8. Vahan Sargsyan, 2015. "Differential Treatment in the Chinese Labor Market. Is Hukou Type the Only Problem?," CERGE-EI Working Papers wp548, The Center for Economic Research and Graduate Education - Economics Institute, Prague.

    More about this item


    left-behind children; migration duration; return migration; discrete-time duration analysis; China;

    JEL classification:

    • J61 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Geographic Labor Mobility; Immigrant Workers
    • J13 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth
    • C41 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric and Statistical Methods: Special Topics - - - Duration Analysis; Optimal Timing Strategies
    • C25 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Single Equation Models; Single Variables - - - Discrete Regression and Qualitative Choice Models; Discrete Regressors; Proportions; Probabilities
    • O53 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economywide Country Studies - - - Asia including Middle East

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