The November issue of Health Affairs features a global study that looked at the impact of China's rapid development and urbanization on the country's "left-behind" children. As a result of what experts are calling the largest migration on the planet, millions of workers are leaving their rural homes and their children to find jobs in the cities.
Chengchao Zhou of China's Shangdong University and coauthors examined whether China's left-behind children are in fact the most vulnerable children in the country and whether they are in need of special programs. The researchers compared the health, nutrition, and educational outcomes of left-behind children to rural children living with their parents and found no significant differences between the two groups. Both groups experienced similarly high rates of malnutrition, unmet medical needs, and low levels of educational attainment. This suggests that programs specifically aimed at left-behind children are misdirected and overlook a large slice of China's at-risk children. The authors recommend that programs and policies aimed at helping left-behind children should refocus and expand their efforts to focus on all rural children, regardless of parents' migration status. Additionally, the authors suggest more research to better understand the socioeconomic factors influencing caretaker availability and parents' decision to migrate.
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