Rural–urban migration and urban identity differentiation in China

Shenghua Xie, Juan Chen, Zengyang Xu

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Previous studies on the social identity of rural-urban migrants in China have often neglected the fact that migration is highly selective. Consequently, the findings generally suffer from survival bias. To overcome this problem, we construct an analytical framework to differentiate six subgroups: rural residents with no migration experience, returned migrants, rural-urban migrants, new urban residents through elite approaches, new urban residents through policy dividends, and urban natives. Employing logistic regression, propensity score matching, and propensity score-based marginal mean weighting through stratification, this study analyzes the 2013 Chinese General Social Survey data and confirms that the urban identity of rural residents, rural-urban migrants, new urban residents, and urban natives changed from weak to strong. The sources of urban identity can be ascribed to three aspects: urban experience, hukou conversion, and generational replacement, among which hukou conversion is the most important. The findings indicate that incorporating rural-urban migrants whose identity status may have changed into the analysis helps overcome the problem of survival bias. This method can be further used to reveal other issues related to rural-urban migration in urbanizing China. Moreover, theories concerning international migrants in western countries should be critically appraised before being applied to explain the social integration of internal migrants in different social contexts.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEurasian Geography and Economics
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2023


  • China
  • hukou
  • migration
  • Rural-urban migrants
  • urban identity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Economics and Econometrics


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