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, 7 (11), e46932

Discrimination Against Rural-To-Urban Migrants: The Role of the Hukou System in China


Discrimination Against Rural-To-Urban Migrants: The Role of the Hukou System in China

Lei Kuang et al. PLoS One.


China's rural-urban dual society system is instituted by its unique hukou system. This system causes inequalities in social status between permanent urban and rural residents, and discrimination against rural-to-urban migrants is thus prevalent. A series of studies, based on system justification theory, sought to address the impact of the hukou system on the discrimination against rural-to-urban migrants. Study 1 showed that the justification of the hukou system could predict discrimination operationalized using a social distance measure. Study 2 found that priming of the proposed abolishment of the current hukou system led to reduced social distance. Study 3, using a recruiting scenario, further demonstrated that priming of the proposed abolishment of the system led to reduced discrimination in salary decision. Consistent with our predictions, discrimination against rural-to-urban migrants could be triggered by justifying the current hukou system, while priming of the abolishment of the system serves to decrease discrimination. The present research thereby sheds light on China's reform of its hukou system to achieve social justice and equality from a psychological perspective.

Conflict of interest statement

Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.


Figure 1
Figure 1. The impact of hukou system reform on salary.
The priming of the hukou system's status significantly influenced the salary prospects of the two candidates. Specifically, the difference between the two candidates' potential salaries in the abolishing condition was smaller than the difference in the preserving condition.

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This research was supported by the MOE Project of the Key Research Institute of Humanities and Social Sciences in University (2009JJDXLX001), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (71071021), and the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities awarded to Li Liu. The funders had no role in study design, data collection, decision to publish or preparation of the manuscript.