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Migration premium?: The economic returns to youth inter-province migration in post-reform China

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

E-pub ahead of print
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>5/03/2019
<mark>Journal</mark>Journal of Youth Studies
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print
Early online date5/03/19
Original languageEnglish


Every year, millions of young people migrate away from their home provinces for higher education and employment in China. However, less is known about the extent to which Chinese young people may benefit economically from their migration. Analyzing nationally representative data from the new China College Student Survey, this paper examines the impact of inter-province migration on the starting salaries of Chinese young people after undergraduate studies. Utilizing the method of propensity score matching, this research reveals differences in the economic returns to migration for higher education and for work, and between young people of rural and urban hukou origins. The economic premium attached to inter-province education migration is largely mediated and thus explained by socioeconomic disparities across Chinese provinces. By contrast, young people’s work migration generates a positive economic premium, over and above the wage disparity between sending and host provinces. Underlining the context-dependent nature of the migration premium, the results draw attention to China’s institutional features—i.e. the structural configurations of education and work migration and the hukou system—in shaping the economic returns to youth migration. Rural and urban young people’s differential access to the migration premium may also exacerbate socioeconomic inequalities in post-reform China.