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Rural-Urban Migration and the Health of Left-Behind Older Adults

Tess Stafford, Xiaoyun Zhang and Katja Hanewald

Abstract: We study the effect of rural-urban migration on the well-being of older adults that re- main in rural communities in China, a country that is experiencing extensive rural-urban migration and rapid population aging. We exploit China’s historic “sent-down youth” program which temporarily relocated millions of urban youth to rural villages and created lasting social ties between sending cities and receiving villages. These ties, coupled with present-day variation in urban growth, create exogenous variation in present-day rural-urban migration rates, allowing us to uncover causal effects of migration. Results suggest that migration negatively affects the physical, cognitive, and emotional health of older adults that remain behind. (JEL I12, I15, J24, J61, O15, O18, R23)


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