The Pursuit of Happiness? Accessing the Effects of Being Internal Migrants on Subjective Well-Being in China

Yaqiang Qi, Renmin University of China
Jingjun Qiu, Capital Medical University (CMU)

Past research has documented that the primary engine of internal migration in China, as elsewhere, is the desire to improve one's financial situation. In this research we aim to answer another set of questions: (1) Does migration improve happiness? (2) Does the answer to the first question depend on changes in the economic well-being? We answer these questions using data from a just completed national probability sample survey in China. Since migrants and non-migrants differ in important ways, and statistical inferences based directly on these incomparable groups are highly model-dependent (sensitive to model specification). We adopt a two-step “doubly safe” approach by first preprocessing the data using nonparametric matching methods, and then estimate parametric regression on the preprocessed data and make statistical inference as usual. This is the first happiness study in China based on a national probability sample and the first with special focus on comparing migrants and non-migrants.

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Presented in Poster Session 5