The hukou converters

Deng, Quheng and Bjorn Gustafsson (2014). The hukou converters : China’s lesser known rural to urban migrants. Journal of Contemporary China, 23 (88), 657-679. DOI: 10.1080/10670564.2013.861147.

This article studies people born in rural China who now live in urban areas of China and possess a residence permit, an urban hukou; these are the hukou converters and they are examined using large datasets covering substantial parts of China in 2002. According to our estimates, there are 107 million hukou converters constituting 20% of the registered population of China’s urban areas. Presence of a high employment rate in the city, that the city is small or medium-sized, and that the city is located in the middle or western part of China are factors which cause the ratio of hukou converters in the registered city population to be comparatively high. The probability of becoming a hukou converter is strongly linked to having parents with relatively high human and social capital and belonging to the ethnic majority. Compared to their rural-born peers left behind, as well as to migrants who have kept their rural hukou, the hukou converters have much higher per capita household incomes. Years of schooling and CPC membership contribute to this difference but most of the difference remains unexplained in a statistical sense, signalling large incentives to urbanise as well as to receive an urban hukou. While living a very different life from their peers left behind, the economic circumstances of China’s hukou converters at the destination are, on average, similar to the urban-born population. Hukou converters who receive an urban hukou before age 25 do well in the labour market and we have reported indications that they actually overtake urban-born peers regarding earnings. In contrast, hukou migrants who receive an urban hukou after age 25 do not catch up with their urban-born counterparts in terms of earnings.

Cite this blog post
Monique Abud (2014, June 19). The hukou converters. URBACHINA. Retrieved June 18, 2024, from

Monique Abud

Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine, EHESS, Paris, France

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