Sacrifice and Indebtedness: The Intergenerational Contract in Chinese Rural Migrant Families. By: Gu, Xiaorong. Journal of Family Issues. Feb2022, Vol. 43 Issue 2, p509-533. 25p.

For four decades after China initiated economic reform, rural-urban migration has become a central experience for rural families. How do families negotiate economic production and social reproduction across geographic spaces and against institutional constraints? This article identifies the concept of intergenerational contract as an analytical tool to answer this question. Based on qualitative data gathered in Hunan and Shenzhen, I reveal that (a) children’s education is pursued as a family project, deeply rooted in families’ classed social mobility aspirations; (b) by spatializing the living and responsibilities of generations, rural migrant families selectively appropriate the hierarchical economic geography produced by state policies, to balance work and family arrangements; and (c) children engage in emotional labor guided by normative expectations and rules to reciprocate older generations’ care and support. The study uncovers coexisting resilience and vulnerabilities of migrant families and opens theoretical spaces to address the linkages between family, culture, and class in contemporary China.