Social Capital, Migration and Health in the Urban Chinese Context

Neal Palmer, Qingwen Xu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In China, rapid development has led to massive migration from rural to urban areas. A loosening but still restrictive residency registration system and the disintegration of the Chinese social support system create hurdles for migrants seeking to access health care and maintain adequate health. Using data from a survey of 3,024 rural-to-urban migrant workers across seven Chinese cities, this paper explores the relationship between self-rated health and individual and community social capital for China's migrant workers. Results of ordinal logistic regression indicate that, among individual-focused social capital, friend support and the presence of elderly family members in the home are positively associated with self-rated health. Among community-focused measures, trust in community members, community satisfaction and place attachment are positively associated with self-rated health, while neighbouring and organisational social capital are negatively related. This study suggests that social capital operates in complex and multi-directional ways in China and among Chinese migrants; some forms of social capital may be less useful or signal deficiencies in other types of network or resource. Implications for labour, migration policy, health and conceptualisations of social capital in the Chinese context are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)31-50
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Ethnic and Migration Studies
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2013


  • China
  • Internal Migration
  • Migrant Health
  • Social Support

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Demography
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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