Hukou Reform and the “Luohu” of Rural Migrants in Urban China

Ming Tian, Qingwen Xu, Zhigang Li, Yang Yu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Along with a series of reforms of the household registration, or the hukou system, there has been a sustained call for its reforms to further integrate rural migrants into cities and sustain the national strategy of urbanization. Nevertheless, does hukou still matter? Is it still a major obstacle to the inclusive development of post-reform urban China? Recently, the effect of the hukou system and its reforms has become a debatable topic. To address the question, in this article, we examine the “luohu” of rural migrants, i.e., rural people who work and/or live in the city obtaining urban hukou, to evaluate the effects of hukou reforms. We argue, along with the improvement of China’s social security system in both urban and rural areas, as well as the increased rights of rural migrants in cities, that the gap between the “value” of urban and rural hukou is decreasing: the boundaries set between urban and rural territories have been diminished; meanwhile, the intentions of rural migrants to luohu in the city have declined. This dilemma indicates that the impact of hukou system per se is fading, which is closely linked to the reforms of other social policies such as welfare and pension systems. As such, to promote the integration of rural migrants in Chinese cities, the focus of China’s hukou reforms should shift from the registration system to more inclusive social policies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number15683
JournalSustainability (Switzerland)
Issue number23
StatePublished - Dec 2022


  • China
  • household registration (hukou) system
  • rural migrants
  • urbanization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Science (miscellaneous)
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Building and Construction
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology
  • Hardware and Architecture
  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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