Urban Poverty in China
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Urban Poverty in China

Fulong Wu, Chris Webster, Shenijing He and Yuting Liu

Urban poverty is an emerging problem. This book explores the household and neighbourhood factors that lead to both the generation and continuance of urban poverty in China. It is argued that the urban Chinese are not a homogenous social group, but combine laid-off workers and rural migrants, resulting in stark contrasts between migrant and workers’ neighbourhoods and villages.
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Chapter 3: Poverty Groups: Livelihood and Trajectories

Fulong Wu, Chris Webster, Shenijing He and Yuting Liu


The previous chapter describes poverty incidences among different social groups. This chapter discusses in detail their livelihood and poverty situation through our fieldwork observations. The first part of this chapter examines basic aspects of living under poverty, while the second part draws on personal life stories obtained through interviews. The purpose of this chapter is therefore to depict complex composition of poverty groups and their varied trajectories towards poverty. As we have shown in the previous chapters, China’s new urban poverty is composed of unemployed persons, laid-off workers, poor workers and retirees from failing or bankrupt enterprises, and poor rural migrants. This is different from the traditional urban poor in China – the ‘Three Nos’ (no relatives or dependants, no working capacity and no source of income) (Chen et al., 2006; Liu and Wu, 2006a). The majority of the new urban poor comprises newly laid-off workers and unemployed persons. Since our survey samples were randomly selected to include different types of household in 25 low-income urban neighbourhoods, they allow us to contrast different social groups, vulnerable groups and less vulnerable groups; and also to compare poor households and non-poor households. This chapter presents a comprehensive portrait of the urban poor by looking at their demographic characteristics, social entitlements, housing conditions, neighbourhood interaction and social networks. Respondents are categorized into four social groups according to household heads’ employment status: working group, unemployed/laid-off group, retired group, and rural migrants group. Each group is further divided into poor and non-poor households, poor households being...

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