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01.12.2015 | Research article | Ausgabe 1/2016 Open Access

BMC Public Health 1/2016

A meta-analysis of the impacts of internal migration on child health outcomes in China

BMC Public Health > Ausgabe 1/2016
Xiaoyue Sun, Mengtong Chen, Ko Ling Chan
Wichtige Hinweise

Competing interests

Authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Authors’ contributions

KLC and XS wrote the main manuscript text, and MC and XS conducted the literature selection and meta-analysis. All authors reviewed the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.



According to China’s 2010 population census, 38.81 million children migrated from rural to urban areas in Mainland China, a phenomenon that has attracted much scholarly attention. Due to the lack of quantitative synthesis of migrant children’s developmental outcomes, we undertook a meta-analysis to compare their developmental outcomes with those of their urban counterparts.


We searched Applied Social Sciences Index and Abstracts (ASSIA), Australian Education Index, British Education Index, ERIC, ProQuest Education Journals, PsycINFO, Social Services Abstracts, Family & Society Studies Worldwide, Medline, Women’s Studies International databases and the Chinese CNKI database to identify relevant studies. Studies reporting physical and mental health outcomes of migrant children as well as potential protective and risk factors of child developmental outcomes were included. We assessed study quality using a quality assessment checklist.


We selected 25 studies from a total of 1592. Our results reveal that migrant children in public schools present significantly greater mental health problems and lower well-being than their urban counterparts, while migrant children in migrant schools do not present significantly different outcomes. In addition, migrant children were found to be more likely to be exposed to physical health risks due to limited utilization of health services. The disadvantageous health outcomes of migrant children were found to be related to a series of individual and social factors, including academic performance, social relationships, and discrimination.


Migrant children are disadvantaged by the sociocultural circumstances in urban areas. Government should target them and provide appropriate support in order to improve their developmental status, which will have a positive impact on the stability and development of society.
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