How Migrant Workers Find Housing in Beijing: The role of individual agency in differential housing access and outcomes

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As a rapidly developing country, China has experienced a surge of internal rural-to-urban migration. Migrant workers are powerful catalysts in the development of their host cities and have considerable agency in their lives. This thesis examines the following questions: 1) how do migrant workers find housing, 2) what are the living arrangements and housing conditions for different subsets of migrant workers, and 3) what are the available channels in which they can improve their housing conditions? It does not intend to deny or trivialize the institutional constraints that affect the daily lives of migrant workers; neither does it intend to be a historical survey of how cities around the world have relied on the labor of internal migrant workers to yield similar patterns of urban growth. Instead, this study focuses on migrant workers in Beijing without the urban household registration and their differential experiences with housing provision as evidence of individual agency. Residential patterns tend to vary with socio-economic mobility, therefore indicating the extent of migrant assimilation. This study asserts that migrant workers have a considerable degree of agency in their lives and have devised coping strategies to manipulate personal resources to improve their outcomes of housing provision, as opposed to remaining passive recipients of structural discrimination. The first chapter of this thesis will provide a historical overview of institutional barriers that migrant workers encounter in the city, summarize the current literature, and explain the need for further research beyond the urban household registration system. The second chapter will describe the framework of this study and the results. The final chapter will suggest how informal channels such as occupation and social networks may exceed the influence of structural discrimination, in contrast to previous studies.


Type of resource text
Date created May 2007


Author Chan, Deland
Advisor Seto, Karen
Degree granting institution Stanford University, Urban Studies


Subject urban studies
Subject stanford
Subject migrant workers
Subject beijing
Subject housing
Subject migration
Subject Stanford University Urban Studies
Genre Thesis

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Chan, Deland. (2007). How Migrant Workers Find Housing in Beijing: The role of individual agency in differential housing access and outcomes. Stanford Digital Repository. Available at:


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