Migrants, Housing and the impact of Inequality in Beijing’s Dual Housing Market

Title of project: Migrants, Housing and the impact of Inequality in Beijing’s Dual Housing Market
Project group: Public Management & Social Development
Year of commencement: 2018
Project introduction:




This research examines the diversifying landscape of housing in Beijing, capturing how, despite reforms, it still is still a dual market. It maps out the diversifying housing situation facing migrants, capturing how it relates to increasing inequality in urban China, and looks forward discussing the future of migrant housing in Beijing.

Housing is intimately related to economic inequality and to one’s quality of life. Stable, affordable, acceptable quality housing is in short supply across the globe, especially in urban centers like Beijing. We know that this affordable housing crisis affects families, disrupting work and school, and leading to a sense of deep insecurity. Housing is also an important link to building wealth, so shutting the door on this opportunity has made it very difficult for many to move up the ladder.

More troubling is the increasing numbers of urban dwellers forced into substandard housing that presents health and safety risks.  The most recent incident occurred in November 19, 2017 when a blaze broke out in Daxing district, an area mostly inhabited by migrant workers searching for cheaper accommodation.  Eight people were injured in the fire, nineteen people died, seven of whom were children. This kind of disaster is common in these shantytowns; it was the third fire in this neighborhood this year.  The fires have led to a citywide “safety check” in which local officials are inspecting shantytowns that have developed along the outskirts of the city and already a number of eviction and forced demolition notices have been posted.

The safety check, evictions and demolitions are a circular process, which has played out repeatedly across urban centers like Beijing. Our goal is to collect secondary data on China’s housing and land policy, specifically policies in Beijing. We will combined that data with our existing data.  Both scholars have collected data on migrant housing in Beijing, Professor Li has collected survey data, and Professor Swider has collective qualitative data.  Hence, collaborative efforts will allow us to use the data to produce a mix-methods project on the important topic of housing, specifically migrant housing, in Beijing.  Mix-methods increases reliability and validity, often producing research that is more robust.

The goal of the secondary data is to map out policy changes over time and accompany this with statistics on the migratory flow into Beijing, the changing housing stock, and the bifurcation of the housing market. The second part of the project will finish analysis of the data (both survey data and qualitative data) which have already been collected. This data will be used to understand how migrants are finding housing, what kinds of housing they have in the city, and how they choose, given the choices they have.  Furthermore, this data will show how different kinds of housing affect other aspects of their lives, incomes and earnings and quality of life.  Finally, we want to think about the future of housing in large urban cities like Beijing, and how migrant populations will be accommodated, and what might help break this cycle of substandard urban housing for migrants in Beijing.


Primary contact person: Sarah Swider

Associate Professor

Department of Sociology, Copenhagen University

Fellow project partners: 李君甫 Junfu LI


School of Humanities and Social Science, Beijing University of Technology

Home institution: Department of Sociology, Copenhagen University

Øster Farimagsgade 5, Bld. 16, 1014 København K, Denmark

+45 35 33 33 18

Host institution: School of Humanities and Social Science, Beijing University of Technology

No. 100 Pingleyuan, Chaoyang District, Beijing, China

+86 (10) 67 39 34 56

Scheduled project activities: Secondary data collection followed by weekly meetings developing framework and conducting data analysis in Beijing Summer 2018. Submission of 1st article September and 2nd paper December 2018