China Population and Development Studies

, Volume 1, Issue 2, pp 81–103 | Cite as

Hukou-Restricted Migration and Migrants’ Health: Evidence and Policy Implication

  • Jianlin NiuEmail author
  • Zhenzhen Zheng
Open Access


Since the 1980s, rapid economic development in China has continued to attract great numbers of migrants from rural to urban labor markets. As a result, the constraints of the hukou registration system on migration flows have gradually declined. Nevertheless, institutional barriers associated with the hukou remain for migrants in their social integration in destination. And these have led to substantial negative impacts on migrants’ physical, social and psychological wellbeing.

Regional institutional variation and recent reforms in the hukou system at the provincial or lower level set up a semi experimental context in which to examine how institutional or structural differences can affect migrants’ wellbeing. This study analyzes the health-related differences between migrants in two major migrant-receiving cities, Beijing and Shenzhen. To eliminate the effect of self-selection in destination choice, we use propensity score matching to remove the observable differences which are relevant in destination choice and to make the respondents in the two cities more comparable. With the matched samples, we examine the net effect of migration destination on health outcomes and health service use. We found that migrants in Shenzhen have relatively poorer physical and psychological health compared with those in Beijing, and that they have more unmet health needs in spite of their higher use of health services. We discuss the structural and institutional factors which may be relevant to the observed net health differences, including the differences in policy implementation and regulations between these two cities.

Key words

the Hukou registration system Institutional arrangements Destination effect Migrants’ health 


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© China Population and Development Research Center 2015

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Population and Labor EconomicsChinese Academy of Social SciencesBeijingChina

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