BACKGROUND: Many developing countries are rapidly urbanising because of large migration flows from rural to urban areas. However, migrants' socio-cultural transitions might be challenging, and their extent of social integration and sense of hometown identity might impede resettlement and quality of life. Although a sense of belonging in the host city and a sense of attachment to the hometown might be important to migrants' ability to assimilate, adapt and succeed in a new place, these factors have not adequately been studied in China.
METHODS: The data were derived from the 2014 China Migrants Dynamic Survey, a large-scale questionnaire survey of Chinese migrants. This study's sample comprised 15,990 individuals in eight Chinese cities. Life satisfaction was measured with the Satisfaction with Life Scale, and the key independent variables (social integration, sense of hometown identity and sense of belonging in the host city) were measured using multi-item constructs. Cronbach's alpha coefficients on the four main variables were 0.76 to 0.90. A multivariable linear regression analysis was applied to a path model that assessed the mediating and moderating effects of sense of belonging in the host city on direct relationships with life satisfaction (social integration ⇢ life satisfaction and hometown identity ⇢ life satisfaction).
RESULTS: Social integration positively related to life satisfaction (B = 0.267) and sense of belonging in the host city (B = 0.912). A weak hometown identity related to higher life satisfaction and stronger sense of belonging in the host city (B = 0.087 and B = 0.176, respectively). Sense of belonging in the host city significantly mediated the relationships between social integration and life satisfaction (B = 0.267 decreased to B = 0.085) and between hometown identity and life satisfaction (B = 0.087 decreased to B = 0.048). Last, sense of belonging in the host city significantly moderated the relationship between social integration and life satisfaction.
CONCLUSION: A sense of belonging to a place is important to migrants' life satisfaction regarding the hometown and the host city. Promoting migrants' sense that they are part of the new living environment is important to China's sustainable urban development.
Keywords: Hometown identity Internal migration Life satisfaction Rural migrant Sense of belonging Social integration Urbanisation