UMBC logo

Undergraduate Researchers

Amy Fowler

Amy Fowler, Asian Studies and History

“Analysis of the Hukou System in China”

The hukou system is the household registration system in China that limits internal migration and determines how social services are allotted. Generally, citizens have either a rural or urban hukou which is passed down from their parents, and household registration is difficult to change. China has experienced a dramatic economic and social transformation since hukou was adopted in the 1950s. It has allowed selective migration to meet the demands of a growing economy in the last 20 to 30 years. Hukou plays a significant role in determining the rights and benefits available to Chinese citizens and has effectively made those who migrate into second class citizens, denying them the best jobs, education for their children, medical care, housing and other benefits. The public’s growing dissatisfaction with the hukou system could threaten social stability in China. As China’s economy grows, the trend is likely to continue. My research will take me to Beijing, China, where I will be conducting interviews and using other resources such as newspapers, periodicals, and archival materials. The scope of research will explore the origins of the hukou system, its evolution, and impact on society. Further study will include the government’s role and the future of the system.

How did you know this was the project you wanted to do?

I was perusing the China section of a bookstore when I ran across Leslie Chang’s Factory Girls. After reading the book, I wanted to understand how migrant workers are affected by government policy. After speaking to my mentor, I narrowed down the scope of my research to focus on the government institution of the hukou (household registration) system and how it affects migration in China.

How did you hear about the Undergraduate Research Program? Was the application hard? Did your mentor help you?

I heard about the URA program from my academic advisor who suggested that I apply. The application was not difficult and my advisors helped me throughout the process by providing valuable feedback. My mentor was especially helpful in determining a budget for my project.

What academic background did you have before you started?

Before beginning my research, I developed language skills and have also learned about Chinese society, culture and politics. I also completed an independent study focusing on social and political developments in contemporary China. The independent study provided preliminary research and a literature review for my research in China.

What else are you involved in at UMBC?

I am also a member of both the Interdisciplinary Studies Council of Majors and the Asian Studies Council of Majors.

What are your career goals?

I plan to earn my Masters focusing on Chinese policy and work in the Foreign Service or intelligence sectors of the federal government.

What is your advice to other students about getting involved in research?

Speak to your advisors and professors as they are the best resources.