Frontiers of Education in China

, Volume 12, Issue 3, pp 332–366 | Cite as

Young Women Rural Migrant Workers in China’s West: Benefits of Schooling?

  • Vilma SeebergEmail author
  • Shujuan Luo
Research Article


This paper explores the association of rural schooling with empowerment of female rural migrant workers in remote Western China. It asks what school-related intrinsic and instrumental capabilities enhanced their urban lives and their role as “drivers for development” in urbanizing China. The analysis of a long-term observational study of the females of one cluster of villages shows that recently-arrived (2015) young rural new-migrant workers manifested enhanced capabilities associated with their schooling in four dimensions of social freedoms: protective security against early arranged marriage, enhanced occupational opportunity, constructive social arrangements founded in rural identity, and cognitive and aspirational capabilities. Lower educational attainment and achievement are associated with fewer and weaker empowerment capabilities across all dimensions. Political empowerment capabilities in the sense of civil rights and entitlements have no foundation in earlier education and are lacking in their urban lives. However, a sense of “voice” is beginning to take hold among young rural migrant women. Taking a female-centric capability perspective uncovers beneficial aspects of internal migration, contributing to a more holistically theorized understanding of associated social changes.


capabilities education empowerment rural migrant workers women 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Foundations, Leadership and AdministrationKent State UniversityKentUSA

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