Sex Roles

pp 1–13 | Cite as

Moving from Rural to Urban China: How Urbanization Affects Women’s Housework

  • Meng Sha LuoEmail author
  • Ernest Wing Tak Chui
Original Article


The present study explores within-gender differences in domestic labor by studying housework variations across five different groups of women in contemporary China. We defined five groups of women according to their urbanization status in general and hukou (i.e., household registration) in particular. (a) Rural natives are women with rural hukou who have stayed in rural areas, (b) rural migrants are women with rural hukou who have migrated to an urban area but have not obtained an urban hukou, (c) policy-based converters are women with rural origins who have converted to being urban residents due to policy privileges, (d) merit-based converters are women with rural origins who have converted to urban residents because of their merit (i.e., education), and (e) urban natives are those who are born urban hukou holders. Multivariate results on a national dataset with 2186 partnered women (aged 18–60) revealed that among women with rural origins, converters spent the least time on housework, rural natives the most, and rural migrants fell in between. Successful converters, particularly merit-based converters, expressed the strongest desire to pursue gender equality and deliberately devoted less time to domestic work. Additional Propensity Score Matching (PSM) analysis that compared women who have migrated to cities with women who have stayed in rural areas provides evidence that moving to urban areas has a negative association with women’s housework time, irrespective of their official household registration status, no matter whether they are migrant women who are not officially recognized or are successfully converted urban women.


Household labor Division of labor Geographical mobility Gender equality Gender identity 



No funding was received for the research.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Ethical Approval

The manuscript is original, has not previously been published, and is not under current consideration elsewhere. The 2012 Chinese General Social Survey protocols were approved by the Renmin University of China review board. The present study was exempted from review because it uses de-identified and publicly available data.

Conflict of Interest

The authors have no conflicts of interest to declare.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Social Work and Social AdministrationThe University of Hong KongPokfulamHong Kong

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