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Changing Patterns of the Floating Population in China, 2000-2010

Abstract Using data from the 2000 and 2010 Chinese population censuses and applying a consistent definition of migration, we examine changing patterns of China's floating population during 2000–2010. During the first decade of the twenty‐first century, there have been significant changes in China's floating population, as reflected in a continuing growth of interprovincial floating population and the growth of the floating population in China's western and interior regions, geographic diversification of destinations for the floating population, a major increase in interprovincial return migration, and significant improvement in education and occupational profiles among the floating population. We argue that these patterns are driven by domestic and international factors, including the newly released Labor Law, removal of agricultural tax, the western China development program, increased investment in education by the Chinese government, and the global financial crisis. We also discuss several challenges facing the floating population, which include limited educational opportunity for migrant children and inadequate housing and social welfare protection for the floating population.

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