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Journal of Population Economics

, Volume 33, Issue 1, pp 155–195 | Cite as

Social networks and mental health outcomes: Chinese rural–urban migrant experience

  • Xin Meng
  • Sen XueEmail author
Original Paper
  • 127 Downloads

Abstract

Over the past two decades, more than 160 million Chinese rural workers have migrated to cities to work. They are separated from their familiar rural networks to work in an unfamiliar, and often hostile, environment. Many of them thus face significant mental health challenges. This paper is the first to investigate the extent to which migrant social networks in host cities can mitigate these adverse mental health effects. Using unique longitudinal survey data from Rural-to-Urban Migration in China (RUMiC), we find that network size matters significantly for migrant workers. Our preferred instrumental variable estimates suggest that a one standard deviation increase in migrant city networks, on average, reduces the measure of mental health problems by 0.47 to 0.66 of a standard deviation. Similar effects are found among the less educated, those working longer hours, and those without access to social insurance. The main channel of the network effect is through boosting migrants’ confidence and reducing their anxiety.

Keywords

Mental health Social networks Migration China 

JEL Classification

I12 I15 J61 

Notes

Acknowledgements

We would like to thank Tue Gorgens, Bob Gregory, Jenny Williams, the Editor Klaus Zimmermann, and three anonymous referees and seminar and conference participants at Australian National University and the 2014 Australasian Econometric Society Annual Meeting for their invaluable comments.

Funding

This study was funded by the Australian Research Council for RUMiC project (ARC grant number LP066972, LP140100514, and DP0988572) and Guangzhou Social Science “13-fives plan” Grant (2019GZYB25).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Research School of Economics, College of Business and EconomicsAustralian National UniversityCanberraAustralia
  2. 2.Institute for Economic and Social ResearchJinan UniversityGuangzhouChina

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