Can Migrant Social Networks Mitigate Mental Health Challenges in China?

A new article in the January 2020 issue of the Journal of Population Economics suggests that migrant social networks in host cities mitigate adverse mental health challenges of Chinese rural-urban migrant workers.

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Social networks and mental health outcomes: Chinese rural–urban migrant experience
Xin Meng & Sen Xue


Journal of Population Economics 33 (2020), 155–195
GLO Discussion Paper No. 370, 2019.

GLO Fellows Xin Meng & Sen Xue

Author Abstract: Over the past two decades, more than 160 million Chinese rural workers have migrated to cities to work. They are separated from their familiar rural networks to work in an unfamiliar, and often hostile, environment. Many of them thus face significant mental health challenges. This paper is the first to investigate the extent to which migrant social networks in host cities can mitigate these adverse mental health effects. Using unique longitudinal survey data from Rural-to-Urban Migration in China (RUMiC), we find that network size matters significantly for migrant workers. Our preferred instrumental variable estimates suggest that a one standard deviation increase in migrant city networks, on average, reduces the measure of mental health problems by 0.47 to 0.66 of a standard deviation. Similar effects are found among the less educated, those working longer hours, and those without access to social insurance. The main channel of the network effect is through boosting migrants’ confidence and reducing their anxiety.

Read also the Lead Article of issue 1 (2020):
Hate at first sight? Dynamic aspects of the electoral impact of migration: the case of Ukip
Eugenio Levi, Rama Dasi Mariani & Fabrizio Patriarca
Journal of Population Economics, Vol. 33 (2020), Issue 1 (January), pp. 1-32.
GLO Fellows Eugenio Levi, Rama Dasi Mariani & Fabrizio Patriarca
Complete issue 1, read access to all articles.


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