Parental Migration and Adolescents' Transitioning to High School in Rural China

Monday, July 14, 2014: 12:00 PM
Room: F202
Oral Presentation
Shu HU , National University of Singapore, Singapore, Singapore
The transition from middle school to academic or vocational high school or work is a crucial period for adolescents in China. It has profound implications for both the individuals’ lifetime status and the society’s educational stratification and social inequality. Educational reforms beginning in 1980s have raised direct costs of education for individual families and widened regional disparities in education opportunities. Returns to schooling have increased in both rural and urban China. Growing opportunities of migrant work in urban China provide alternatives to economic mobility. Facing unequal opportunities and constraints of pursuing education, how do rural adolescents choose to follow different trajectories of transitioning to high school? 

This paper investigates how parental labor migration influences rural adolescents’ transitioning to high school of different levels or migrant work after or even before graduation from middle school. Millions of rural children are left behind in rural China for years as their migrant parents work in the city. Parental migration may lead to increased financial resources, decreased parental supervision, more demand on children’s time and labor on housework or farming, access to parents’ information and networks on migrant work opportunities, and changes in parents’ values and attitudes about children’s education. These mechanisms will in turn affect children’s aspirations, motivations, academic performance and educational outcomes in different ways.

The data used is collected from my fieldwork following groups of students and dropouts from 3 middle schools located in a typical migrant-sending county of Central China. I used mixed methods to obtain detailed information from student participants, caregivers, teachers and the schools. Data from multiple time points and sources allow me to contextualize life circumstances for rural adolescents, and to examine who continues to high school and why. Both qualitative and quantitative analysis will be conducted.