An Investigation of Migrants’ Residential Satisfaction in Beijing

An Investigation of Migrants’ Residential Satisfaction in Beijing


Written by:

Yu Chen, Yunxiao Dang and Guanpeng Dong

First Published:

17 May 2019, 10:48 am


An Investigation of Migrants’ Residential Satisfaction in Beijing



Chinese cities have witnessed enormous neighbourhood changes as a result of housing reforms, rapid urban expansion and massive rural-to-urban migration. Migrants, without local hukou status, are not entitled to many local social benefits and services, including minimum living allowance and subsidised housing. Many migrants are concentrated in low-paid jobs and live in low-cost neighbourhoods. In particular, urban villages become migrant enclaves due to affordable housing and convenient location.


While previous studies have primarily focused on migrants’ limited housing choices and poor housing conditions in Chinese cities, it is relatively unknown about their self-selection into urban villages and other neighbourhood types, as well as their subjective evaluation of living environment in local areas. Residential satisfaction reflects the extent to which migrants’ residential needs are fulfilled from their own perspective. Understanding how migrants evaluate their living environment is an important area for research because residential satisfaction is proved to be a key component of life satisfaction and happiness. Compared with local urban residents, migrants tend to sort themselves into certain neighbourhoods, taking into account choices and constraints in the housing market without local hukou status. Such a self-selection may influence their expectation of and, therefore, satisfaction with residential environment. The study on the determinants of migrants’ residential choice and satisfaction will inform policies aimed at improving their living environment in cities.


Drawing upon a large-scale questionnaire survey in Beijing in 2013, we examine the factors influencing migrants’ residential choices, in particular urban villages versus other neighbourhood types, in a multinomial logit model, and the sources of residential satisfaction in a multilevel framework. There are three main findings:


First, significant heterogeneities in residential satisfaction exist in different neighbourhood types, after controlling for demographic, socioeconomic characteristics and sub-district-level contextual variables. Migrants tend to report the highest satisfaction level in commercial property estates, followed by those dominated by affordable housing and work-unit housing, and finally, urban villages.


Second, migrants choose to live in different neighbourhood types contingent on age, gender, household composition, income and job-related factors. Their self-selection has significant impacts on residential satisfaction. Those who are more likely to live in commercial property estates tend to be more fastidious about residential environment, and to report a lower level of satisfaction with similar residential environment. In contrast, those choosing to live in urban villages tend to have lower expectations of living environment, and to report a higher level of satisfaction with similar residential environment.


Third, besides neighbourhood types and self-selection, migrants’ residential satisfaction is influenced by demographic and socio-economic characteristics, as well as sub-district-level contextual variables. Age, household income, duration, commuting time and location in the city significantly influence residential satisfaction. The proportion of migrants at the sub-district level also matters, which negatively influences satisfaction for migrants with high educational attainment. However, migrants with low educational levels and a stay of over 15 years reported higher levels of satisfaction in sub-districts with higher percentages of migrants.


The findings have important implications. In theory, the study contributes to migrants’ self-selection into different neighbourhood types in transitional China, and it explores migrants’ satisfaction with residential environment from their own perspective, which is essential to understand migrants’ life satisfaction and happiness. Moreover, the results prove the important role of the self-selection on migrants’ satisfaction with residential environment for future research. In practice, considering the low satisfaction of migrants on urban villages, it is important to improve facilities and services in urban villages to enhance residential satisfaction. Innovative policies, such as upgrading urban villages and affordable housing projects, are needed to satisfy migrants’ demand for decent residential environment. The results also suggest that housing costs and proximity to workplace are important to migrants’ residential satisfaction. Affordable housing projects need to pay particular attention to access to employment.


Read the paper on Urban Studies – OnlineFirst here.