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Essays on rural-urban migration in hinterland China

Abstract

Using self-collected rural household data in Zhijiang municipality, Hubei province, China, my dissertation addresses three different aspects of rural-urban migration in hinterland China. First, I study the relationship between origin income and the individual's migration decision. I instrument the key variable, the household land, using the administrative record of initial land allocated by the state to the households in the early 1980s, and find that rural-urban migration selects negatively on landholding. I also study individuals' migration decisions that were not selected on the parental migration choices versus those that were. My findings show that the selectivity problem is important. While a negative relationship between landholding and migration propensity is found for the descendants of an immobile cohort of rural residents, selectivity alters the result for the descendants of a mobile cohort of villagers and a positive relationship can emerge. Second, I examine the causal impact of the grain subsidy, which was ushered in by China's agricultural policy shift since 2004, on villagers' urban-bound migration propensity. My study validates the concern that the grain subsidy is dissuading farmers to engage in migratory work, however, the magnitude of the reduced incidence of rural-urban migration is modest. If China values the welfare of the rural sector and would like to continue subsidizing its grain production in a WTO-compliant way, it can do so without jeopardizing the country's process of rural-urban migration or notably reduce the local welfare that might result from a loss of the migrant income. Lastly, I focus on the fall of the marriage rates of rural men in their early twenties and study the extent to which the rise in rural young women's participation in migratory work has contributed to this fall. I find that (1) a 10 percentage point increase in the local female out-migration reduces rural male marriage propensity by 5\%; (2) the impact was felt by both non-migrant and migrant men, but the marriage propensity of migrant men was affected more by female out- migration than non-migrant men; (3) the more educated the migrant men, the less severely their marriage probability was affected by the local female out-migration.

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