Parental Migration’s Effects on the Academic and Non-Academic Performance of Left-Behind Children in Rural China*

Gao Yujuan (高玉娟), Bai Yu (白钰), Ma Yue (马跃) and Shi Yaojiang (史耀疆)
Center for Experimental Economics in Education, Shaanxi Normal University, Xi’an, China

Abstract: This study investigates the impact of parental labor migration on the academic achievements and non-academic growth of left-behind children in fourth and seventh grades. Employing survey data collected from rural China in 2014, 2015, and 2016, we examine the effect of parental absence on children’s academic achievement using Propensity Score Matching (PSM) and Difference in Difference (DID) methods. The results demonstrate that left-behind children whose parents have migrated for one year have statistically significantly lower academic scores. Academic scores drop lower for fourthgrade students and students from higher-income families. There are also adverse effects on left-behind children’s confidence, teacher-student relationships, subjective well-being, and educational expectations if parents migrate for one year. Surprisingly, if parental migration lasts longer (totaling two years), these adverse effects disappear, and student’s educational expectations even improve. These results may be because, over time, the adverse effects that occur immediately after parental migration are offset by the positive effects of migration (i.e. higher income). These conclusions can inform migrant parents on ways to utilize their resources to improve the academic performance of their left-behind children.

Keywords: left-behind children, academic performance, non-academic performance,
rural China, difference in difference, propensity score matching

JEL Classification Codes: J21, J24, R23
DOI:1 0.19602/j .chinaeconomist.2019.9.07

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