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Discrimination, Perceived Social Inequity, and Mental Health Among Rural-to-Urban Migrants in China

Abstract

Status-based discrimination and inequity have been associated with the process of migration, especially with economics-driven internal migration. However, their association with mental health among economy-driven internal migrants in developing countries is rarely assessed. This study examines discriminatory experiences and perceived social inequity in relation to mental health status among rural-to-urban migrants in China. Cross-sectional data were collected from 1,006 rural-to-urban migrants in 2004–2005 in Beijing, China. Participants reported their perceptions and experiences of being discriminated in daily life in urban destination and perceived social inequity. Mental health was measured using the symptom checklist-90 (SCL-90). Multivariate analyses using general linear model were performed to test the effect of discriminatory experience and perceived social inequity on mental health. Experience of discrimination was positively associated with male gender, being married at least once, poorer health status, shorter duration of migration, and middle range of personal income. Likewise, perceived social inequity was associated with poorer health status, higher education attainment, and lower personal income. Multivariate analyses indicate that both experience of discrimination and perceived social inequity were strongly associated with mental health problems of rural-to-urban migrants. Experience of discrimination in daily life and perceived social inequity have a significant influence on mental health among rural-to-urban migrants. The findings underscore the needs to reduce public or societal discrimination against rural-to-urban migrants, to eliminate structural barriers (i.e., dual household registrations) for migrants to fully benefit from the urban economic development, and to create a positive atmosphere to improve migrant’s psychological well-being.

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Acknowledgments

This study is supported by NIH research grants R21TW006375 and R01NR10498 by the Fogarty International Center, the National Institute of Mental Health, and the National Institute of Nursing Research. The content of this study is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the NIH. The authors wish to thank dedicated students and faculty members from Beijing Normal University for their contributions to the data collection.

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Correspondence to Xiaoming Li or Xiaoyi Fang.

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Lin, D., Li, X., Wang, B. et al. Discrimination, Perceived Social Inequity, and Mental Health Among Rural-to-Urban Migrants in China. Community Ment Health J 47, 171–180 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10597-009-9278-4

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10597-009-9278-4

Keywords

  • China
  • Rural-to-urban migrants
  • Discrimination
  • Perceived social inequity
  • Mental health
  • SCL-90