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Great Expectations? The Subjective Well-Being of Rural-Urban Migrants in China

  • John Knight
  • Ramani Gunatilaka

This paper may be the first to link the literatures on migration and on subjective well-being in developing countries. It poses the question: why do rural-urban migrant households settled in urban China have an average happiness score lower than that of rural households? Three basic hypotheses are examined: migrants had false expectations about their future urban conditions, or about their future urban aspirations, or about their future selves. Estimated happiness functions and decomposition analyses, based on a 2002 national household survey, indicate that certain features of migrant conditions make for unhappiness, and that their high aspirations in relation to achievement, influenced by reference groups, also make for unhappiness. It is difficult to form unbiased expectations about life in a new and different world.

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File URL: http://www.economics.ox.ac.uk/materials/working_papers/paper322.pdf
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Paper provided by University of Oxford, Department of Economics in its series Economics Series Working Papers with number 322.

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Date of creation: 01 Apr 2007
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Handle: RePEc:oxf:wpaper:322
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  1. Stutzer, Alois & Frey, Bruno S., 2004. "Stress That Doesn't Pay: The Commuting Paradox," IZA Discussion Papers 1278, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  2. Kingdon, Geeta Gandhi & Knight, John, 2007. "Community, comparisons and subjective well-being in a divided society," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 64(1), pages 69-90, September.
  3. Knight, John & Song, Lina, 1999. "The Rural-Urban Divide: Economic Disparities and Interactions in China," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198293309, March.
  4. Matthew Rabin, 1998. "Psychology and Economics," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 36(1), pages 11-46, March.
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  6. Stark, Oded & Taylor, J Edward, 1991. "Migration Incentives, Migration Types: The Role of Relative Deprivation," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 101(408), pages 1163-78, September.
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  8. Christopher F Baum & Mark E. Schaffer & Steven Stillman, 2003. "Instrumental variables and GMM: Estimation and testing," Stata Journal, StataCorp LP, vol. 3(1), pages 1-31, March.
  9. Andrew E. Clark & Paul Frijters & Michael A. Shields, 2008. "Relative Income, Happiness, and Utility: An Explanation for the Easterlin Paradox and Other Puzzles," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 46(1), pages 95-144, March.
  10. Easterlin, Richard A, 2001. "Income and Happiness: Towards an Unified Theory," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 111(473), pages 465-84, July.
  11. Zhao, Yaohui, 1999. "Labor Migration and Earnings Differences: The Case of Rural China," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 47(4), pages 767-82, July.
  12. Ada Ferrer-i-Carbonell & Paul Frijters, 2004. "How Important is Methodology for the estimates of the determinants of Happiness?," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 114(497), pages 641-659, 07.
  13. John Knight & Ramani Gunatilaka, 2010. "The Rural-Urban Divide in China: Income but Not Happiness?," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 46(3), pages 506-534.
  14. Rachel Sabates-Wheeler & Ricardo Sabates & Adriana Castaldo, 2008. "Tackling Poverty-migration Linkages: Evidence from Ghana and Egypt," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 87(2), pages 307-328, June.
  15. Christopher F Baum & Vince Wiggins & Steven Stillman & Mark E Schaffer, 1999. "OVERID: Stata module to calculate tests of overidentifying restrictions after ivreg, ivreg2, ivreg29, ivprobit, ivtobit, reg3," Statistical Software Components S396902, Boston College Department of Economics, revised 26 Apr 2010.
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