Cultural capital in migration: Academic achievements of Chinese migrant children in urban public schools

Gaoming Ma, Qiaobing Wu

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


The educational inequality faced by migrant children is a great social problem in China. The government has gradually reformed the hukou system, allowing migrant children to attend urban public schools. However, their academic achievements continue to lag behind those of urban non-migrant children. The classic explanation would point to a lack of social capital; this article argues for the importance of cultural capital in children's migration. Drawing upon 10,417 middle school children (14–16 years old), this article examines cultural and social capital as mechanisms through which migration affects education. Results show that the lower academic achievements of Chinese migrant children is mainly due to the mediating effect of objectified cultural capital. Family social capital is also a significant mediator, but the indirect effect is relatively small. Most surprising is the contradictory effects of embodied and objectified cultural capital on academic achievements. Theoretical contributions and policy implications are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105196
JournalChildren and Youth Services Review
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2020


  • Cultural capital
  • Educational inequality
  • Mediation analysis
  • Migrant children
  • Social capital

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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