Institute for Economic and Social Research

Migration and experienced utility of left-behind parents: evidence from rural China


Journal of  Population Economics

Shu Cai, Albert Park & Winnie Yip


This paper examines the impact of children’s migration on the well-being of left-behind parents using panel data on experienced utility measured by the Day Reconstruction Method. Exploiting exogenous variation in exposure to employment shocks at migration destinations for identification, we find that left-behind parents experience lower utility when their adult children migrate. This is partly due to increased working time and less time spent in social activities, and partly due to reduced utility within activity type. The latter effect is consistent with the finding of less physical care and psychological support from children who have migrated. These negative effects dominate the possible benefits of greater income associated with children’s migration.





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