“I Felt Like There Would Be a Vast Sky Out There” The Leaving Home Decisions of Chinese Migrant Women Workers

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Abstract

This study examined how migration decisions are made in the context of development during emerging adulthood. Thirty-two Chinese migrant women workers aged 18–29 years were individually interviewed on their decision-making process when they migrated for the first time. Their main reasons for “going out” were family poverty, dislike of the hard work on the farm, disinterest in continuing school, and the appeal of city life. Going out was typically part of a family strategy that would benefit other family members, and all the young women sent money home, but they also wanted a better life and a broader range of opportunities for themselves. The young women’s accounts revealed a balance between their enhanced sense of autonomy as a consequence of migration and their traditional beliefs in family obligation. These results will help bring attention to Chinese migrant women workers, who are migrating in vast numbers but are greatly underrepresented in psychological studies.

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