Move Abroad to Move Forward? Self-Assessments of Chinese Students and Undocumented Migrants in France

A publication by Florence Lévy and Yong Li, Move Abroad to Move Forward? Self-Assessments of Chinese Students and Undocumented Migrants in France, Social Inclusion, Vol 9, n° 1, 2021.
Migrants’ self-assessments refer to their perceptions of social mobility and positioning. These assessments are often ambivalent and counterintuitive for observers. To overcome contradictory first impressions, we propose a comprehensive approach to migrants’ self-assessments that goes beyond the opposition between objective and subjective social mobility and links the transnational context, various social spheres, actors’ migratory projects, and their reflexivity. The empirical materials in this article draw on two studies on Chinese migrants in France and confront the trajectories and viewpoints of undocumented migrants and international students. Beyond the differences between their experiences and their legal, economic, and social statuses in France and China, we highlight several common points: First, both groups considered migration a lever to improve their social status. Second, their evaluations link their regions of origin and destination as well as various social spheres. Third, in a transnational context, many factors at different scales influence migrants’ subjective self-assessments of the success or failure of their migration. The migrants’ assessments can vary according to their emphasis on professional, personal, or family trajectories, or on their choice of reference groups. They are shaped by the complexity of translations of status from one country to another and by rapid social transformation in China. Thus, many interviewees estimate that they are simultaneously in situations of social progression and regression.
Keywords:  Chinese migrations; downward mobility; France; highly skilled migrants; self-assessment; social mobility; social sphere; social transformation; undocumented migrants

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florencelevy (3 mars 2021). Move Abroad to Move Forward? Self-Assessments of Chinese Students and Undocumented Migrants in France. en (Île de) France 法兰西(岛)华侨华人研究. Consulté le 23 juillet 2024 à l’adresse


Florence Lévy is a postdoctoral fellow at Sciences Po – CERI (Centre de recherches internationales). She holds a PhD in sociology from the School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences (EHESS) in France and Neuchâtel University in Switzerland. She has also a master degree in Chinese studies from Paris 7 University. She has spent many years in China and in Taiwan and speaks fluently mandarin. Her research focuses on three main topics: Migration Studies, Gender studies, Contemporary urban China. She has conducted many researches on Chinese migrations in Europe, especially in France and in Switzerland. Her PhD thesis was dedicated to a new and almost never studied migration flux linking Northern Chinese cities to the Parisian area. Using a transnational methodology and a qualitative and a comprehensive approach, she has highlighted the impact of the Chinese post-Maoist reforms on the emergence of this new migration flux and on its atypical configuration (middle age, urban, skilled persons, and a majority of women). The combination of gender and ethnic lens showed the stratification and the discriminations inside the Parisians Chinese ethnic networks. She has also taken part in comparative European researches questioning the living conditions of undocumented migrants in Europe (working conditions, access to health, family life). Her last research for the European University Institute was about human trafficking in the domestic labour sector. She currently teaches courses related to migration studies in Paris Diderot University, in Sciences Po and in the School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences (EHESS).

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