Gansu Survey of Children and Families Papers

Document Type

Working Paper

Date of this Version



Suggested Citation:

Leng, L. and Park, A. (2010). Parental Migration and Child Development in China (Working Paper). Gansu Survey of Children and Families.


In recent years, China has witnessed a massive wave of rural-to-urban migration, which frequently results in family separations. This study uses panel data from a longitudinal study of rural children inwestern China to analyze the impact of migration by fathers on the development of children left behind in rural villages. Child development indicators include both measures of academic attainment, such as enrollment, years held back, and test scores in math and language; as well as measures of non-cognitive skills, specifically children’s internalizing and externalizing behavior which reflects their psychosocial development. To identify the effect of changes in parental migration on changes in child outcomes, we instrument changes in migration status with labor market shocks to village-specific migration destinations. Results suggest that fathers’ migration reduces enrolment by sons, has significant positive effects on the academic outcomes of daughters, but has negative effects on the psychosocial well-being of both boys and girls.

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Date Posted: 23 March 2011