Changing patterns of household decision-making and the education of rural migrant children: Comparing Shenzhen and Mumbai

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In both China and India, migrant families face difficult decisions about education and livelihoods. In China, migrant children have limited access to urban schools, because of high documentary barriers to enrolment. In India, administrative barriers are fewer, but other structural factors, including households’ need for child labour, restrict opportunities. Although much research globally has explored household negotiations leading to migration, we know little about livelihoods decision-making processes after initial migration. How is decision-making affected by changes in household dynamics as a result of moving to the city? Drawing on over 300 interviews with migrants in Shenzhen and Mumbai from 2007 to 2016, this paper compares the ways that Chinese and Indian rural-migrant households negotiate their children’s limited access to education, and demonstrates significant shifts within families after the initial rural-urban movement in both countries. Mothers in particular gain greater roles in developing household strategies, and more attention is paid to the voices of (some, mostly male) children. However, contrary to existing literature on non-migrant populations, increased maternal and child autonomy within the migrant household does not necessarily result in educational gains. Instead, the exercise of agency outside the household remains highly constrained by structural factors including poverty and marginalisation, education policies and gendered social relations.
Original languageEnglish
JournalMigration Studies
Early online date3 May 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 3 May 2019


  • Rural-urban migration
  • Household decision-making
  • China
  • India
  • Education
  • Children


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