Catching Up Left-Behind Children in China? Policy Analysis with Endogenous Migration Decisions

Rebecca Myerson, University of Chicago

In China, access to government services varies by migration status and 61 million rural children have been left behind by one or more migrant parents. The healthy development of rural children is a topic of concern. I propose that if parental migration decisions take policy into account, some policy changes may increase the number of left-behind children. Analyzing an economic model of how parents react to policy in deciding migration, time use and spending, I show when parents decide to leave children behind as a result of a policy change, the human capital of newly left-behind children is decreased. Using panel data on Chinese families, I find that a recent increase in services for non-migrants raised children’s chances of being left-behind by 5%. I conclude that after accounting for endogenous migration effects, raising governmental support for rural non-migrant children (migrant children) like benefits children less (more) than was previously apparent.

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 Presented in Session P6. Migration and Urbanization/Population, Development, and the Environment