Childhood Left-Behind Experience and Employment Quality of New-Generation Migrants in China

  • Jianbo Liu
  • Xiaodong Zheng
  • Marie Parker
  • Xiangming FangEmail author
Original Research


This is the first study that empirically investigates the associations between left-behind experience in childhood and the quality of employment in adulthood for young rural-to-urban migrants in China, a population known as new-generation migrants. Toward this end, we consider several indicators of employment quality, including wages, employee benefits, work intensity and employment stability, and explore the possible channels between the childhood left-behind experience and employment quality indicators. Our 2013 Migrant Worker Survey shows that 40% of young migrants (n = 1802) have been left-behind for more than 6 months before 16 years of age and 7% of new-generation migrants have childhood left-behind experience for at least 3 years. Through empirical analysis, we find that the childhood left-behind experience, especially long-term experience, adversely affects the wages and employment stability of young migrants. In addition, the results of this study show that long-term left-behind experience is adversely associated with correlates of human capital, especially mental health, which subsequently affects adulthood employment quality. Policies should be improved to decrease the occurrence of left-behind children and, when this cannot be avoided, programs and services are required to reduce the negative effects of childhood left-behind experience on new-generation migrants.


Left-behind experience New-generation migrant Employment quality Human capital China 



We thank Zheng Shen and Zehao Li for assistance with the literature review and useful discussions, and we thank three reviewers and editors for their very helpful insights and comments.


This study was supported by the National Social Science Foundation of China under Grant No. 17BRK018. The data and codes used for this study are available upon request.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

No potential conflict of interest was reported by the authors.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jianbo Liu
    • 1
  • Xiaodong Zheng
    • 2
  • Marie Parker
    • 3
  • Xiangming Fang
    • 1
    • 3
    Email author
  1. 1.College of Economics and ManagementChina Agricultural UniversityBeijingChina
  2. 2.School of EconomicsZhejiang Gongshang UniversityHangzhouChina
  3. 3.School of Public HealthGeorgia State UniversityAtlantaUSA

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