Assessing the Effects of Restrictions on Migration: What Can We Learn from China?

Orn B. Bodvarsson, St. Cloud State University

A cross-country test of how restrictions affect immigration has eluded the literature. However, China offers a valuable natural experiment because it regulates internal migration. In provinces and cities, attractive employment opportunities and public benefits are available only to locally registered (Hukou) households. Coincident with the deepening of economic reforms, Hukou has been relaxed since the 1980s. The influence of Hukou on the scale and structure of interprovincial migration is investigated in this panel study. Census data for 1985-90, 1995-2000 and 2000-05 are used to estimate a modified gravity model that is nuanced to fit the Chinese case. Hukou is measured by the historical percentage of locally registered households in a province, which is taken to reflect the unregistered migrant’s perceived probability of securing local registration. Both the scale and structure of migration are found to be very sensitive to Hukou restrictions, suggesting that deregulation contributed substantially to China’s migration surge.

  See paper

Presented in Poster Session 4