Journal of Happiness Studies

, Volume 11, Issue 3, pp 315–333 | Cite as

Subjective Well-Being of China’s Off-Farm Migrants

  • Ingrid NielsenEmail author
  • Russell Smyth
  • Qingguo Zhai
Research Paper


Existing research applying the personal wellbeing index (PWI) in China is restricted to urban and rural samples. There are no studies for Chinese off-farm migrants. The specific aims of this study are: (a) ascertain whether Chinese off-farm are satisfied with their lives; (b) investigate the equivalence of the PWI in terms of its psychometric properties; and (c) examine whether the responses to the PWI from participants falls within the normative range predicted by the Theory of Subjective Wellbeing Homeostasis. The PWI demonstrated good psychometric performance in terms of its reliability and validity and was consistent with previous studies for Western and non-Western samples. The data revealed a moderate level of subjective well-being (PWI score = 62.6). While Chinese off-farm migrants lead hard lives, the PWI was within the normative range predicted for Chinese societies by the Theory of Subjective Wellbeing Homeostasis. A likely explanation for this finding rests with the circular nature of migration in China. When China’s off-farm migrants find it too difficult to cope in the cities, most have the fallback position that they can return to their homes in the countryside. This option provides an external buffer to minimize the inherent challenges of life which would otherwise impinge on the life satisfaction of China’s off-farm migrants.


China Subjective well-being Personal wellbeing index 



We thank Yin Liu for assistance with data collection and three anonymous referees for several helpful suggestions. This study was funded by a grant from the Faculty of Business and Economics, Monash University.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of ManagementMonash UniversityMelbourneAustralia
  2. 2.Department of EconomicsMonash UniversityMelbourneAustralia
  3. 3.School of Business and EconomicsLiaoning Shihua UniversityFushunPeople’s Republic of China

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