Becoming Urban Citizens: A Three-Phase Perspective on the Social Integration of Rural-Urban Migrants in China

Xia Sun, Juan Chen, Shenghua Xie

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


This article attempts to provide an integrated conceptual framework for understanding how rural-urban migrants in China integrate into urban society. We propose a three-phase conceptual framework in which the social integration of rural-urban migrants is categorized into circular migration, urban settlement, and urban integration. We argue that the three phases differ with respect to the aims of migration, the identity of migrants, the key dimensions of social integration, the role of government, and the hukou policy. While the transition from circular migration to urban settlement is an outcome of economic development and change in demographic structure, as reflected by the economic conditions of rural-urban migrants, welfare expansion also plays a critical role during this process. We further hypothesize that the transition from urban settlement to urban integration will be a result of the social interaction between rural-urban migrants and local urbanites, within which social capital and cultural factors are vital. Since most rural-urban migrants are currently at the phase of urban settlement, we suggest that the Chinese government should enlarge welfare provisions to support their settlement in cities. This study contributes to improving the understanding of how to facilitate social integration of internal migrants in developing countries.

Original languageEnglish
Article number5946
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 13 May 2022


  • circular migration
  • rural-urban migrant
  • social integration
  • urban integration
  • urban settlement

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pollution
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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