The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
HL and HF participated in the design of the study and performed the statistical analysis. HL, JR, and HF conceived of the study, and participated in its design and coordination and helped to draft the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.
Hukou is the household registration system in China that determines eligibility for various welfare benefits, such as health care, education, housing, and employment. The hukou system may lead to nutritional and health disparities in China. We aim at examining the role of the hukou system in affecting urban-rural disparities in child nutrition, and disentangling the institutional effect of hukou from the effect of urban/rural residence on child nutrition-related health outcomes.
This study uses data from the China Health and Nutrition Survey 1993–2009 with a sample of 9616 children under the age of 18. We compute height-for-age z-score and weight-for-age z-score for children. We use both descriptive statistics and multiple regression techniques to study the levels and significance of the association between child nutrition-related health outcomes and hukou type.
Children with urban hukou have 0.25 (P < 0.01) higher height z-scores and 0.15 (P < 0.01) higher weight z-scores than children with rural hukou, and this difference by urban vs. rural hukou status is larger than the difference in height and weight (0.23 and 0.09, respectively) by urban vs. rural residence. Controlling for place of residence, children with urban hukou had 0.18 higher height z-scores and 0.17 (P < 0.01) higher weight z-scores than children with rural hukou.
The hukou system exacerbates urban-rural disparities in child nutrition-related health outcomes independent of the well-known disparity stemming from urban-rural residence. Fortunately, however, child health disparities due to hukou have been declining since 2000.