"Ethnic" Enclaves, Migrant Settlement, and Socio-spatial Differentiation in Metropolitan Shenzhen, 2000-2010

Project: Research

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Internal migration in China has reached an unprecedented scale since the late 1990s.The migrants are increasingly heading for a few metropolitan regions in the east, andmore of them bringing their families with a plan of long-term stay, and contributing toa significant portion of China’s rapidly growing urban population. While numerousstudies have documented the socioeconomic disadvantages of migrants, oftenattributable to their lack of local hukou, few have paid attention to how theconcentrations of migrants in certain residential areas and industries/occupationssectors could provide a mechanism to mitigate migrants’ socioeconomic disadvantages incities. Moreover, while migrants are typically treated as a single group to compare withlocal residents, they are indeed heterogeneous, often forming their social networks andcommunities to facilitate their adaption to the new urban life.This project aims to investigate social-spatial differentiations of migrants in aChinese metropolis, Shenzhen. Drawing from the western urban sociological literature onethnicity and immigration, the PI proposes to distinguish among migrants by their placeof origin (often associated with distinctive culture and dialects) and to perceive them asdifferent “ethnic” groups. Based on the micro-data from the population and economiccensuses, the PI plans: 1) to identify certain native-place “ethnic” enclaves in Shenzhenand the temporal changes from 2000 to 2010; 2) to analyze the formation of thesenative-place enclaves in association with spatial locations of certain industries andcommunity characteristics; and finally, 3) to examine the role of the native-placeenclaves in affecting migrants’ socioeconomic attainment and returns to human capitalin the metropolitan labor markets of Shenzhen.Findings from the project will not only provide new evidence on how migrants aresocially organized and shape China’s urban structure in their destinations, but also shednew light on how migrants’ disadvantages are created but also mitigated by their spatialand social concentrations. Such a comprehensive understanding of internal migrants’adaptation and socioeconomic attainment in metropolitan settings under differentinstitutional arrangement will contribute to the further theorization in urban sociologyand offer a solid basis for policy research to address urban issues related to migrationand community.


Project number9042609
Grant typeGRF
Effective start/end date1/01/17 → …