Local ties, trans-local ties, and substance use among rural-to-urban migrants in China

Xi CHEN, Hua ZHONG*, Serena Yunran ZHANG

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


China has witnessed unprecedented rural-to-urban migration since the early 1980s. While trying to assimilate into the city, rural-to-urban migrants still maintain close ties with their home communities. This study examines how local ties and trans-local ties of rural-to-urban migrants affect their alcohol and tobacco use. Data were obtained from the 2016 and 2018 China Labor-force Dynamics Survey, a nationally representative sample of adults aged over 15 in 29 provinces in China. Participants included 1426 rural-to-urban migrant workers and 6438 urban residents in China. We found that compared to urban natives, rural-to-urban migrants had higher tobacco use prevalence (logit = 0.19, 95% CI = [0.03, 0.35]; p < 0.05) and more frequent alcohol use (logit = 0.27, 95% CI = [0.11, 0.42]; p < 0.001) after adjusting for sociodemographic characteristics. Migrants with more local social ties engaged in more frequent drinking (having >10 local friends vs. having 0 local friends: logit = 0.58, [0.10, 1.06], p < 0.05), whereas trans-local ties were not a significant correlate. In contrast, migrants who returned to their hometown more times (an indicator of trans-local ties) were more likely to be current tobacco users (logit = 0.01, 95% CI = [0.00, 0.02], p < 0.01) after adjusting for sociodemographic variables. These findings extended the research on social networks and health behaviors by identifying how local and trans-local ties differentially affected the vulnerabilities of tobacco and alcohol use among rural-to-urban migrants in China. The findings suggested that policies and interventions on reducing migrants’ health risk behaviors should focus on the role of different types of social ties.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4233
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2022
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The data analyzed in this study was collected by the research project “China Labor-force Dynamics Survey (CLDS)” carried out by the Center for Social Survey, Sun Yat-sen University. The authors appreciate the assistance of the institute when we applied for the use of the data.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


  • alcohol use
  • China
  • local ties
  • rural-to-urban migrants
  • tobacco use
  • trans-local ties


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