Yao Lu

Yao Lu

Research Interest

Biographical Notes

I am an Associate Professor of Sociology and faculty affiliate of the Columbia Population Research Center (CPRC), the Weatherhead East Asian Institute (WEAI), the Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy (ISERP), the Data Science Institute (DSI), the China Center for Social Policy (CCSP), and the Institute of Latin American Studies (ILAS) at Columbia University.


My research lies at the intersection of inequality, demography, and politics, with a primary focus on 1) the influence of demographic forces on political processes, 2) the sources of inequality by gender, race/ethnicity, and nativity in high-skilled labor markets, and 3) the impact of migration/immigration on economic and social inequality in sending and receiving societies. Within these general areas, my research engages a number of subfields ranging from labor markets to collective action, health, child development, gender, and race and ethnicity. My work takes a multidisciplinary approach and seeks to arrive at new findings by bringing together seemingly disparate areas of research.


I conduct research across diverse socioeconomic settings, including but not limited to China and the United States. Some of my work takes a comparative approach by investigating how institutional environments shape the impact of migration on inequality and politics. My research draws on a range of quantitative methods for causal inference and has most recently incorporated computational and experimental methods.


My research has been funded with grants from the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health (including a K01 Career Development Award), and the Russell Sage Foundation. I have also conducted two national surveys with my collaborators. The first survey focuses on migration and families in China (2012-2013). The second survey investigates how the COVID-19 pandemic has shaped racial attitudes and relations in the US (2020).


My current projects include:

1. The Effect of Demographic Processes on Contentious and Electoral Politics

2. Inequality by Gender, Race/Ethnicity, and Nativity in High-Skilled Labor Markets in the US

3. Social and Political Change in China

4. The Impact of COVID-19 on Racial Attitudes (US) and Social Inequality (China)

5. Immigrant Labor Market Trajectories in Canada and the US

Publications (* denotes student coauthor)

Lu, Yao and Ruochen Zhang*. In press. "Parental Migration, Family Instability, and Psychosocial Well-being of Left-behind Children in China: Evidence from Sequence Analysis." Child Development.


Lu, Yao, and Andres Villarreal. In press. “Emigration and Electoral Outcomes in Mexico: Democratic Diffusion, Clientelism, and Disengagement.” Social Forces.


Maia, Alexandre Gori, and Yao Lu. In press. “Migration and Political Development: The Case of Electoral Participation and Competition in Brazil.” Demography. [Equal authorship]


Lu, Yao, and Feng Hou. In press. “Immigration System, Labor Market Structures, and Overeducation of High-Skilled Immigrants in the United States and Canada.” International Migration Review.


Lu, Yao, and Xiaoguang Li*. In press. "Documentation Status, Gender, and Health Selection of Immigrants: Evidence from Mexican-US Migration." Population, Space and Place.


Hou, Feng, Yao Lu, and Christoph Schimmele. In press. "Recent Trends in Overeducation by Immigration Status: The Impact of Demographics, Supply, and Demand." International Migration.


Lu, Yao, Qian He*, and Jeanne Brooks-Gunn. 2020. “Diverse Experience of Immigrant Children: How Do Separation and Reunification Shape Their Development?” Child Development 91(1):146-163.


Lu, Yao, Jean Wei-Jun Yeung, and Donald J. Treiman. 2020. "Parental Migration and Children's Psychological and Cognitive Development in China: Understanding Mediating Mechanisms." Chinese Sociological Review 52(4): 337-363.


Lu, Yao. 2019. “Empowerment or Disintegration? Migration, Social Institutions, and Collective Action in Rural China.” American Journal of Sociology 125(3):683-729.

– Distinguished Contribution to Scholarship Article Award, Political Sociology Section, American Sociological Association

– Distinguished Contribution to Scholarship Article Award, Collective Behavior and Social Movements Section, American Sociological Association

– Louis Wirth Best Article Award, Honorable Mention, International Migration Section, American Sociological Association

– Faculty Article Award, Honorable Mention, Section on Sociology of Development, American Sociological Association


Lu, Yao, Jean Wei-Jun Yeung, Jingming Liu, and Donald J. Treiman. 2019. “Health of Left-behind Children in China: Evidence from Mediation Analysis.” Chinese Journal of Sociology 5(4):431-452.


Lu, Yao, Jean Wei-Jun Yeung, Jingming Liu, and Donald J. Treiman. 2019. “Migration and Children's Psychosocial Development in China: When and Why Migration Matters.” Social Science Research 77:130-147.


Qin, Lijian, Wei Wang*, and Yao Lu. 2018. “The Working and Living Conditions of College-educated Rural Migrants in China.” Asian Population Studies 14(2):172-193.


Lu, Yao, and Ran Tao. 2017. “Organizational Structure and Collective Action: Lineage Networks, Semi-autonomous Civic Associations, and Collective Resistance in Rural China.” American Journal of Sociology 122(6): 1726-74.

– Distinguished Contribution to Scholarship Article Award, Section on Collective Behavior and Social Movements, American Sociological Association


Lu, Yao, Julia Wang*, and Wen-Jui Han. 2017. “Women’s Short-Term Employment Trajectories Following Birth: Patterns, Determinants, and Variations by Race/Ethnicity and Nativity.” Demography 54(1):93-118.

– Finalist, Rosabeth Moss Kanter Award for Excellence in Work-Family Research


Lu, Yao, Wenjuan Zheng*, and Wei Wang*. 2017. “Migration and Popular Resistance in Rural China: Wukan and Beyond.” The China Quarterly 229:1-22.


Lu, Yao, Nicole Denier*, Julia Shu-Huah Wang*, and Neeraj Kaushal. 2017. “Unhealthy Assimilation or Persistent Health Advantage? A Longitudinal Analysis of Immigrant Health in the United States.” Social Science & Medicine 195:105-114.


Lu, Yao, Neeraj Kaushal, Nicole Denier*, and Julia Shu-Huah Wang*. 2017. “Health of Newly Arrived Immigrants in Canada and the United States: Differential Selection on Health.” Health & Place 48:1-10.


Kaushal, Neeraj, Yao Lu, Nicole Denier*, Julia Shu-Huah Wang*, and Stephen Trejo. 2016. “Immigrant Employment and Earnings Growth in Canada and the U.S.: Evidence from Longitudinal Data.” Journal of Population Economics 29:1249-1277.


Lu, Yao, and Ran Tao. 2015. “Female Migration, Cultural Context, and Son Preference in Rural China.” Population Research and Policy Review 34(5):665-686.


Lu, Yao. 2015. “Internal Migration, International Migration, and Physical Growth of Left-Behind Children: A Study of Two Settings.” Health & Place 36:118-126.


Kaushal, Neeraj, and Yao Lu. 2015. “Recent Immigration to Canada and the United States: A Mixed Tale of Relative Selection.” International Migration Review 49(2):279-522. [Equal authorship]


Lu, Yao. 2014. “Parental Migration and Education of Left-behind Children: A Comparison of Two Settings.” Journal of Marriage and Family 76:1082-1098.


Lu, Yao, and Lijian Qin. 2014. “Healthy Migrant and Salmon Bias Hypotheses: A Study of Health and Internal Migration in China.” Social Science & Medicine 102:41-48.


Lu, Yao, Zai Liang, and Miao Chunyu. 2013. “Emigration from China in Comparative Perspective.” Social Forces 92(2):631-658.


Lu, Yao, Danching Ruan, and Gina Lai. 2013. “Social Capital and Economic Integration of Migrants in Urban China.” Social Networks 35(3):357-369.


Lu, Yao, and Feng Wang. 2013. “From General Discrimination to Segmented Inequality: Migration and Inequality in Urban China.” Social Science Research 42(6):1443-1456.


Lu, Yao, and Hao Zhou. 2013. “Academic Achievement and Loneliness of Migrant Children in China: School Segregation and Segmented Assimilation.” Comparative Education Review 57(1):85-166.


Lu, Yao. 2013. “Household Migration, Remittances, and Their Impact on Health in Indonesia.” International Migration 51: 202-215.


Treiman, Donald J., Yao Lu, and Yaqiang Qi. 2012. “New Approaches to Demographic Data Collection.” Chinese Sociological Review 44(3):56-92.


Lu, Yao. 2012. “Education of Children Left Behind in Rural China.” Journal of Marriage and Family 74(2):328-341.


Lu, Yao, Peifeng Hu, and Donald J. Treiman. 2012. “Migration and Depressive Symptoms in Migrant-Sending Areas: Findings from The Survey of Internal Migration and Health in China.” International Journal of Public Health 57(4):691-698.


Lu, Yao. 2012. “Household Migration, Social Support, and Psychosocial Health: The Perspective from Migrant-Sending Areas.” Social Science and Medicine 74:135-142.


Lu, Yao and Donald J. Treiman. 2011. “Migration, Remittances, and Educational Stratification among Blacks in Apartheid and Post-Apartheid South Africa.” Social Forces 89(4):1119-1144.


Lu, Yao. 2010. “Mental Health and Risk Behaviors of Rural-Urban Migrants: Longitudinal

Evidence from Indonesia.” Population Studies 64(2):147-163.


Lu, Yao. 2010. “Rural-urban Migration and Health: Evidence from Longitudinal Data in Indonesia.” Social Science & Medicine 70(3): 412-419.


McCarthy, William, Ritesh Mistry, Yao Lu, Minal Patel, and Hong Zheng, and Barbara Dietsch. 2009. “Could Density of Geocoded Tobacco Retailers near Schools Influence Risk of Students Smoking?” American Journal of Public Health 99(11):2006-2013.


Lu, Yao. 2009. “Sibship Size, Family Organization, and Education in South Africa: Black-White Variations.” Research in Social Stratification and Mobility 27(2):110-125.


Mistry, Ritesh, William McCarthy, Antronette Yancey, Yao Lu, and Minal Patel. 2009. “Resilience and Patterns of Health Risk Behaviors in California Adolescents.” Preventive Medicine 48(3):291-297.


Lu, Yao and Donald J. Treiman. 2008. “The Effect of Sibship Size on Educational Attainment in China: Period Variations.” American Sociological Review 73(5):813-834.


Li, Li, Zunyou Wu, Sheng Wu, Manhong Jia, Eli Lieber, and Yao Lu. 2008. “Impacts of HIV/AIDS Stigma on Family Identity and Interactions in China.” Families, Systems and Health 26(4):431-442.


Lu, Yao. 2008. “Test of the ‘Healthy Migrant Hypothesis’: A Longitudinal Analysis of Health Selectivity of Internal Migration in Indonesia.” Social Science and Medicine 67(8):1331-1339.


Lu, Yao. 2007. “Educational Status of Temporary Migrant Children in China: Determinants and Regional Variations.” Asian and Pacific Migration Journal 16(1):29-55.


Grusky, Oscar, Hongjie Liu, Xiaojing Li, Aimee-Noelle Swanson, Naihua Duan, Yibin Zhu, Erjian Ma, and Yao Lu. 2006. “Is Voluntary Counseling and Testing of Drug Users in China Feasible?” International Journal of STD and AIDS 17(5):354-355.


Treiman, Donald J., William M. Mason, Yao Lu, Yi Pan, Yaqiang Qi, and Shige Song. 2006. “Observations on the Design and Implementation of Sample Surveys in China.” Social Transformations in Chinese Societies 1(1):81-101.




Lu, Yao. 2018. “Parental Migration and the Well-being of Children Left Behind from A Comparative Perspective.” Chapter 5 in Parenting from Afar: The Reconfiguration of the Family Across Distance, edited by Maria Guzman, Jill Brown, and Carolyn Edwards. Oxford University Press.


Lu, Yao and Alice Tianbo Zhang*. 2016. “The Link between Migration and Health.” Chapter 2 in Handbook of Migration and Health. Eldward Elgar.


Treiman, Donald J., Yao Lu, and Yaqiang Qi. 2012. “New Approaches to Demographic Data Collection”. Pp. 398-454 (Chapter 13) in Demography, edited by Zai Liang. Beijing: People’s University Press. [in Chinese]


Shen, Anan, Wang Feng, and Yao Lu. 2009. “Earnings and Expenditures among Migrants and Urbanites in Shanghai.” Pp.60-90 in Migration and the Remaking of Shanghai, edited by Danching Ruan. Beijing: Xuelin Publication House. [in Chinese]


Selected Publications

International Migration

“Household Migration, Remittances, and Their Impact on Health in Indonesia”

Yao Lu
Chinese Sociological Review

"New Approaches to Demographic Data Collection"

Yao Lu
Donald J. Treiman
Journal of Marriage and Family

"Education of Children Left Behind in Rural China"

Yao Lu