Migrant Workers’ Integration in Urban China: Experiences in Employment, Social Adaptation and Self-Identity

W Wang, Fan C. Cindy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

160 Citations (Scopus)


The concept of integration is central for understanding the experiences of groups in marginalized positions in contemporary urban societies. Research on integration has primarily focused on international migrants, especially immigrants. Yet internal migrants like rural-urban migrant workers in China also face formidable institutional, economic, cultural, and social barriers in the host society. Informed by integration theory, and drawing on a questionnaire survey of 1,100 migrants conducted in Wuhan, this research effort examines how institutional barriers intersect with economic, social/cultural, and identity integration to explain the experiences of rural migrant workers in Chinese cities. The authors' analysis, based on OLS and logit regressions, shows that the hukou system is a persistent barrier to migrant workers, despite improvement over time of their economic, social/cultural, and identity integration into urban society. Their findings also indicate that human capital is important for migrants' economic and identity integration. Moreover, migrant workers who are socially and culturally adapted, speak the dialect of the host society, and have the financial resources to be self-employed (or buy an apartment in the city) are more likely to develop a sense of belonging in the city than other migrants.
Translated title of the contributionAdaptation & assimilation: A case study of Rural-Urban migrants in Wuhan, China
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)731-749
JournalEurasian Geography and Economics
Issue number6
Early online date28 Dec 2012
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • China, rural-urban migration, integration, social adaptation, institutional factors, hukou


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