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Social spillovers of China’s left-behind children in the classroom

Haining Wang and Rong Zhu ()

Labour Economics, 2021, vol. 69, issue C

Abstract: Rural–urban migrants in China often have to leave their children in rural areas due to institutional restrictions. This paper examines the causal spillover effects of left-behind children on their classmates living with parents in rural China, exploiting the random assignment of students to classes within middle schools. We find that the proportion of left-behind children in class has a significant negative impact on the mental health of their classmates. We also show that the negative peer effects on mental health are related to the worsening of both classroom climate and peer-to-peer interactions. However, there is no evidence that exposure to left-behind students impairs the academic performance of their peers in the same classroom. Our findings suggest that the welfare losses of China’s rural children resulting from the rural–urban migration of adult population are larger than previously thought after accounting for the negative social spillovers of left-behind children on their peers.

Keywords: Mental health; Left-behind students; Peer effects (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: I10 I21 R23 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2021
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DOI: 10.1016/j.labeco.2020.101958

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