Rachel Murphy

Rachel Murphy

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Rachel Murphy

Professor of Chinese Development and Society and Fellow of St Antony’s College



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. Her research sits at the intersections of area and development studies, sociology and anthropological demography. She examines social changes occurring in China because of industrialization, urbanization, demographic transition, migration, marketization, 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 urbanizing landlocked provinces in eastern China. It provides a rare exploration of migration, urbanization, 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 urbanization.

Rachel is President of the British Association for Chinese Studies (http://bacsuk.org.uk) and serves on the editorial boards of Modern China and the ‘Human Geography and Social Sustainability’ section of Sustainability. 


Selected Publications

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

R. Murphy, M. Zhou, and R. Tao (2016) ‘Parents’ Migration and Children’s Subjective Wellbeing and Health: Evidence from Rural China.’ Population, Space and Place, 22 (8): 766-780.

R. Murphy (2014) ‘Sex Ratio Imbalances and China’s Care for Girls Programme: A Case Study of a Social Problem’, China Quarterly, 219 (Sep): 781-807. 

M.H. Zhou, R. Murphy and R. Tao (2014) 'The Effects of Parents' Migration on the Education of Children Left Behind in Rural China', Population and Development Review 40 (2) (Jun): 273-292.

R. Murphy (2014) ‘School and Study in the Lives of Children in Migrant Families: A View from Rural Jiangxi, China’, Development and Change 45 (1): 29-51.

R. Murphy, R. Tao and X. Lu (2011) ‘Son Preference in Rural China’, Population and Development Review, 37 (4) (Dec): 665-690.

R. Murphy (2010) 'The Narrowing Digital Divide in China', in One Country, Two Societies: Rural-Urban Inequality in Contemporary China, ed. by M.K. Whyte, Harvard University Press, pp.168-187. 

Liu L.Q. & R. Murphy (2006) ‘Lineage Identities, Land Conflicts and Rural Migration in Late Socialist China’, Journal of Peasant Studies, 33 (4) (Oct): 612-645. 

V. L. Fong and R. Murphy (eds.) (2006) Chinese Citizenship: Views from the Margins, London: Routledge. 

R. Murphy (2004) ‘Turning Chinese Peasants into Modern Citizens: ‘Population Quality’, Demographic Transition, and Primary Schools’, China Quarterly, 177, (Mar):1-20. 

R. Murphy (2003) ‘Fertility and Distorted Sex Ratios in Rural China: Culture, State and Policy,’ Population and Development Review, 29 (4) (Dec): 595-626.

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].    


Further 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, urbanization, education, children and family.