Parental labor migration and left-behind children's development in rural China

Yuna Hou, Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK)

Employing data from the ‘Basic Education in Western Areas Project implemented from 2004 to 2009 in five poorest provinces in western China, this study aims to evaluate the impact of parental labor migration on left-behind children’s academic and non-cognitive skills. This paper also explores three possible sources of heterogeneity: (1) whether boys and girls have different outcomes when they are left behind. (2) whether the length of time since parents’ migration affects left-behind children’s outcome. (3) whether “who migrants”(both of parents, only father or only mother) makes a difference in children’s outcomes. The dependent variables in our model are children’s academic performance and non-cognitive skills(school adjustment including teacher-student relation, emotion & behavior, self-concept and school-attitude). The explanatory factors can be categorized into four groups:(1) Personal characteristics of migrant parents and their children; (2) Family factors; (3) School factors; (4) Macroeconomic factors. First, we use the Probit model to determine variables added in the migration decision model. Second, we do the propensity score estimation and get the “p-score”. Third, we match the left-behinds with the non-left-behinds employing three different matching methods mentioned above. Lastly, we compare the mean outcome of both groups and get the average treatment effect. Our results show that parental migration has a significant positive impact on boys’ math score and girls’ language score. However, left-behind boys show timidity, anxiety and aggressive or disruptive behaviors. while there is no effect of short-term parental migration on academic performance, over-three-year migration benefits the left-behinds’ academic scores, but harms their emotion and behaviors in school. The comparison of parents’, father’s and mother’s migration shows that father’s migration benefits left-behind boys’ academic scores while parents’ migration benefits girls significantly. Furthermore, the non-cognitive development of left-behind children are negatively affected only when both parents are out.

  See paper

Presented in Session 57: Desirable and undesirable consequences of mobility