UCL Department of Geography


Marriage, children and migration

13 October 2023

PhD student Yufeng Wu co-authors paper on how family structures of migrants relate to their destinations.

PhD student Yufeng Wu

Written alongside his supervisor, Dr Rory Coulter and Professor of Urban Analytics at The Bartlett Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis, Adam Dennett, Yufeng explained how the family structures of migrant workers are systematically related to the geography of their migration destinations. 

"Couple migrants are relatively more likely to be located in megacities while entire family migrants are more likely to locate in less developed regions," he says.

We asked Yufeng to tell us more: 

"This study found that migrant workers with different migration paths have distinct preferences for their destinations. Migrant workers who initially migrate with their whole families tend to avoid economically developed areas, whereas those transitioning from lone to couple migration are more inclined to move to developed eastern regions and megacities."

What drew you to this topic?

"My interest in this topic dates back to my master's studies when I began to focus on internal population migration in China. At present, it accounts for over 20% of the total population, making it a significant demographic phenomenon.

“This massive movement of rural labourers not only has far-reaching implications for various macro-level factors such as the economy, society, and culture but also directly affects the lives and dynamics of the migrant workers themselves and their families.

“I am driven by the desire to better understand the migration behaviours of these rural labourers and the multifaceted impacts of their mobility, with the ultimate goal of contributing to the promotion of a more harmonious and inclusive society in China."

Why is this research important now?

"Our findings also highlight the importance of family dynamics and social factors in shaping migration decisions, providing a more comprehensive perspective on the factors that influence destination beyond purely economic considerations.

“It emphasizes the importance of considering how these choices evolve as migrants' circumstances and priorities change over time."

What do you think the future of this research will be?

"Future research should use longitudinal data to examine how migration destination selection and migrants’ choices of family structure in destination are shaped by geographical opportunities and constraints such as differentials in wage rates and living costs as well as the geography of family networks.

“This would yield new insights into the rapid but spatially uneven changes in family migration behaviour that are occurring in contemporary China."

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