Rachel Murphy

Rachel Murphy

  +44 1865 432032


  St Antony's College

  Oxford School of Global and Area Studies




Rachel Murphy

Professor of Chinese Development and Society 



Rachel Murphy is Professor of Chinese Development and Society and Fellow of St Antony’s College. She obtained her doctorate in Sociology at the University of Cambridge in 1999. Her research sits at the intersections of area and development studies, sociology and anthropological demography. She examines social changes occurring in China because of industrialisation, urbanisation, demographic transition, migration, marketisation, education and state policies. Over the past twenty years she has conducted ethnography, interviews, documentary research and surveys in villages, townships, counties and cities, and has spent more than six years in China. 

Her latest book, The Children of China’s Great Migration (Cambridge University Press, 2020), supported by a British Academy Mid-Career Fellowship, draws on longitudinal fieldwork with children, their caregivers and migrant parents from two urbanising landlocked provinces in eastern China. It provides a rare exploration of migration, urbanisation, education, and families’ gender and intergenerational relations through the eyes of rural children whose parents have migrated for work without them. Her earlier publications appear in Population and Development Review; Population, Space and Place; Development and Change; Journal of Peasant Studies; China Quarterly and International Journal of Educational Development. She is developing new research to explore selected social problems emerging as part of China’s ongoing urbanisation.

In December 2021 (together with Genia Kostka at Freie Universität, Berlin) Rachel was awarded a small grant from the Oxford-Berlin Research Partnership for collaborative activities on ‘Privacy and Ethical Online Research into Private Lives in China’.

Rachel is President of the British Association for Chinese Studies and serves on the editorial board of Modern China

Research Interests: labour migration and urbanisation; education, culture and social mobility; anthropological demography, esp. gender imbalances; rural transformation; media



R. Murphy. 2020. The Children of China’s Great Migration. (Cambridge University Press) 

R. Murphy. 2002. How Migrant Labor is Changing Rural China. (Cambridge University Press) [Chinese edition: 农民工改变中国农村 Zhejiang People’s Publishing House, 2009].    


Other Publications


Rachel offers a course in the ‘Sociology of China’ that is shared by students in the MSc in Sociology and the MSc in Contemporary Chinese Studies. She also contributes to the supervision of doctoral students working on topics in the sociology of China, especially pertaining to migration, urbanisation, education, children and family.