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Parental Migration and Early Childhood Development in Rural China

Journal Article

Published By

Demography

March 2020

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Nearly one-quarter of all children under age 2 in China are left behind in the countryside as parents migrate to urban areas for work.We use a four-wave longitudinal survey following young children from 6 to 30 months of age to provide first evidence on the effects of parental migration on development, health, and nutritional outcomes in the critical first stages of life. We find that maternal migration has a negative effect on cognitive development: migration before children reach 12 months of age reduces cognitive development by 0.3 standard deviations at age 2. Possible mechanisms include reduced dietary diversity and engagement in stimulating activities, both known to be causally associated with skill development in early life. We find no effects on other dimensions of physical and social-emotional health.

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