Migrants and “left-behind children” (1)

Several studies look at the well-being of migrants and the issues they face in the cities. What about their children? We know that many migrants’ children do not have access to adequate education in cities because their families lack an urban hukou, and therefore cannot attend urban schools. So, many migrants choose to leave their children in their hometown where they will be able to receive an education.

How precarious are the lives of these “left-behind children”? That is the question Guo Lin1 attempts to answer in her Ph. D. dissertation.

She studied the different dimensions of children’s well-being based on their education level, their health and health coverage, and their daily activities.

According to her results, left-behind children and rural children living with both parents have a comparable level of education. Also, she notes there does not appear to be a large difference between left-behind children and other children in terms of health, but left-behind children are more likely to be covered by health insurance. Her findings also show that left-behind children are more likely to help with household chores. Based on this research, the overall conditions of rural left-behind children are no worse than those of rural children living with their parents.

Guo Lin recognizes that there needs to be further study the left-behind children phenomenon, not only by using samples provided by the China Health and Nutrition Survey, but also by conducting interviews. But for her, it is also crucial to look at the well-being of rural children in general. There are disparities between urban and rural children, which are partly caused by hukou. Guo Lin’s research shows that gaps in terms of education and health coverage are greater between rural and urban children than between left-behind children and other rural children.

We can go further and argue that China’s future greatly depends on the present health and education of rural children.

  1. Guo Lin (2012). Migration and the well-being of left-behind children in China. Ph.D. thesis, State University of New York, Albany []

Sebastien Goulard

Ph.D. in political science (EHESS, Paris); M.A. in social sciences (EHESS, Paris); M.A. in international relations (IRIS, Paris), B.A. (Hons) in international political studies (ESE - Nottingham Trent University)

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2 thoughts on “Migrants and “left-behind children” (1)

  1. wayne

    As father of two kids, I know the gap between this dissertation , which might be already academically qualified, and the real world in terms of the experience of left-behind children. Using a model like GLMM, one could easily get some interesting results such as left-behind children are no worse than those who live with parents. In other words, like what Guo Lin suggests, money can be used to compensate for the absence of parents. Is this true, however? My suggestion is that don’t be fooled by your stat models. First off, technically, there is no way for one to build a completely saturated model that covers all relevant factors. As a result, your conclusion could be biased and erroneous. Secondly, using statistics, it is well known that for children growing up without parents, they are more likely to be mentally and psychologically ill. For anyone who has parental experience, this is crystal clear. In addition, Guo should also have paid attention to how many left-behind children have been victims of village thugs, how many left-behind girls have been sexually abused, and how many have experienced fatal accidents due to the absence of parents. Even though there is no data available on these issues, the problems must have been serious. Why? Even in China, where peasants are underclass citizens, the miserable experience of left-behind children has pushed cold-blooded governments and bureaucrats to change policies and make some changes. THERE IS NO SUBSTITUTE FOR PARENTS. Interestingly, Guo just found everything had been alright with those poor children left behind. There are tons of stories regarding China’s left-behind children on internet. Please read some of them when you get a chance, which might be useful for better research.

    Reply
    1. Sebastien Goulard Post author

      Dear Waye,

      Thank you for your comment. Actually, a second article on left-behind children issue will be published next week. This one will focus on the actions taken by governments to answer this questionn.
      I agree with you on some weaknessses on this dissertation relying mostly on statistics. However, I chose to write about this paper, because, in my opinion, it contains some interesting points. It highlights the gap in terms of education and health between rural and urban children. And, I believe the left-behind children issue cannot be addressed without looking at the big picture, in our case the rural-urban disparities, especially for education. In rural China, more efforts should done in education for left-behind children and other children.

      Reply

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