The Regulation of Migration in a Transition Economy: China's Hukou System
16 Pages Posted: 21 Sep 2011
Date Written: October 2011
Unlike most countries, China regulates internal migration. Access to public schools, health services, low‐cost housing, and attractive jobs by those who do not have local registration (Hukou) is often limited. Coincident with the deepening of economic reforms, Hukou has gradually been relaxed since the 1980s, contributing to a migration surge. In this study of interprovincial Chinese migration, we address two questions. First, what is a sensible way of incorporating Hukou into theoretical and empirical models of migration in China? Second, to what extent has Hukou influenced the scale and structure of migration? We incorporate two different measures of Hukou into a modified gravity model nuanced to fit the Chinese case: (1) the migrant's perceived probability of securing Hukou and (2) the perceived joint probability of securing Hukou and a job available only to a registered person. Our tests include a much wider variety of controls especially important for the Chinese case. Using census data for 1985–90, 1995–2000 and 2000–05, we find that migration is very sensitive to Hukou, with the greatest sensitivity occurring during the middle period.
JEL Classification: J61
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation