Economic Considerations and Attitudes toward Migrant Workers

43 Pages Posted: 6 Aug 2016 Last revised: 24 May 2018

See all articles by Boliang Zhu

Boliang Zhu

Pennsylvania State University - Department of Political Science

Date Written: May 21, 2018


During China's reform and opening-up era, hundreds of millions of peasants have moved to urban areas looking for jobs, which constitutes the largest movement of labor in human history. This large-scale labor migration has drawn much public and academic attention. Yet there has been little research seeking to understand public opinion on internal migrants. This article examines the role of material factors in urbanites' opinion formation about internal migration. Leveraging an original public opinion survey with an embedded experiment, this study finds that urbanites in general are not supportive of internal labor migration. When asked a general attitudinal question, urbanites do not make an immediate, strong connection between their economic situations and internal migration. When urbanites are exposed to information about the negative impact of internal migration on local labor markets and public finance, economic considerations become prominent in their opinion formation. This study is among the first to systemically examine the determinants of public opinion about China's internal migration. Findings in the article have implications for reform of the household registration system and public goods provision in China.

Keywords: Public Opinion, Economic Considerations, Migrant Workers, Internal Labor Migration, China

Suggested Citation

Zhu, Boliang, Economic Considerations and Attitudes toward Migrant Workers (May 21, 2018). Available at SSRN: or

Boliang Zhu (Contact Author)

Pennsylvania State University - Department of Political Science ( email )

University Park, State College, PA 16801
United States

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