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UAlbany Sociologist Examines Education and Health Consequences of Parental Migration on Children in China

China’s fast-paced urbanization and modernization has left as many as 61 million children left behind due to migration.

ALBANY, N.Y. (October 28, 2015) – University at Albany Sociologist Zai Liang is examining the health consequences of parental migration on children in China, with the goal of determining the potential negative consequences of the often long-term separation associated with this population shift.

China’s fast-paced urbanization and modernization for the last three decades has helped it become the world’s second largest economy after the United States. But the transformation, which included a massive migration shift among China’s 1.3 billion people, may have affected the health and well-being of the nation’s children.

"The children who are affected include two groups -- migrant children who move with their parents and other children who are left behind in the countryside," said Liang, a professor of sociology and director of the developmental core at UAlbany’s Center for Social and Demographic Analysis (CSDA). "The two groups together cover nearly 100 million children. The project will use some existing data and newly collected data to examine education and health outcomes of the children left behind in China."

UAlbany Professor Zai Liang
UAlbany Professor of Sociology Zai Liang

Liang’s project is supported by a $330,836 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF).  

Over the course of the past 30 years, China has seen the largest internal migration (over 200 million by recent estimates from the 2010 Census) in human history. This massive wave of migration has also created a vulnerable population, with roughly 61 million of left behind children whose parents went to work in Chinese cities.

As both internal and international migration continues to increase in the 21st century, a comprehensive understanding of migration and outcomes for children is not only important for China but also holds implications for left-behind children in other countries as well.

As part of the project, Liang will work with students to conduct international research and expose them to cutting-edge survey and statistical methodologies. In addition to sociology students at UAlbany, students at the Schools of Public Health and Education will be provided opportunities to participate in the the survey/data collection process. Liang will collaborate with associate professor of educational administration and policy studies Kathryn Schiller, as well as faculty and students at Southwestern University of Finance and Economics in China.

The project is likely to build a solid empirical foundation for policy-making concerning the well-being of left behind children, said Liang.

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