Beyond Latchkey Kids

In rural China, more than 100 million migrants have left their homes to find work in the cities. By 2025, it is predicted that another 243 million will migrate. The benefit for these rural to urban migrants is increased income, access to education and a higher standard of living.

However, not all have the money to take their children with them. Some children stay behind — alone.

“Researchers estimate that at least 58 million — nearly a quarter of the nation’s children and almost a third of its rural children — are growing up without one or both of their parents, who have migrated in search of work. More than half of those were left by both parents.” Source: Rural Life in China

In the US, we call such children Latchkey Kids. In fact, Jareb Collins at Associated Content says as many as 77 percent of American youth are Latchkey Kids. If accurate, that adds up to more than 57 million American children.

In addition, in 2009, there were about 18.1 million children in the United States living in single-mother families. Source:

In the video, Xie Xiang Ling is one of those children in China that lives alone. She is twelve and tells her story to Al Jazeera.

Ling says she lives alone in rural Anhui Province.

Her parents work in the city and she takes care of herself. Sometimes her parents come home on the weekend and sometimes are gone for months.

Ling said there are too many people in the city where her parents sell fruit, tea and nuts.

When Ling visited her parents in the city, she had trouble sleeping nights because the city is so loud and there are so many cars.

Back home, Ling does her own cooking and eats fruit.

At times, she helps on her aunt’s farm and pulls the vegetables from the ground.

In school, she loves language class and math but does not like the English class since the teacher always screams at the students.

Ling wants to go to college and earn good money but her family cannot afford to send her to college.


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

Subscribe to “iLook China”!
Sign up for an E-mail Subscription at the top of this page, or click on the “Following” tab in the WordPress toolbar at the top of the screen.

About iLook China

Note: This revised and edited post first appeared December 30, 2010

One Response to Beyond Latchkey Kids

  1. merlin says:

    That story sounds so familiar like my friend Ling that lived in Guanxi province working on the farm. Or my friend, Xiao, whose dad worked late in his office position, and her mom ran a commercial real estate business.

    Moving to the city from the countryside is a hard move. Fields and blue sky are replaced with monstrous buildings and gray sky. The low chirping of the grasshoppers is replaced with the unholy honking of the late night taxi cabs. One reason I always remained in the suburbs rather than the city.

Comments are welcome — pro or con. However, comments must focus on the topic of the post, be civil and avoid ad hominem attacks.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: