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Yiran Zhang

S.J.D. Candidate

Graduate Fellow, Harvard Law School

yzhang at


Strategizing to Care: Chinese Migrant Workers’ Household Economics and Background Rules

My dissertation looks into how migrant households strategize through back-and-forth migration, labor participation in the informal economy, and certain reproduction decisions to fulfill the legal obligation to care for dependent family members against remnant Hukou restraints and undersupply of formal public service from the government. Their diverse but limited strategies not only have distributive consequences onto male and female members inside the household; but reversely construct the contour of a certain piece of the market, and alter the enforcement of state’s welfare provision projects.

I am also conducting research on rural transformation and its effects on the elder generation in China.

Fields of Research and Supervisors

  • Family Law and Political Economy with Professor Janet Halley, Harvard Law School, Principal Faculty Supervisor
  • Care/Work Debate in Feminist Legal Theory with Professor Jeannie Suk Gersen, Harvard Law School
  • Chinese Law and Society with Professor William Alford, Harvard Law School
  • Legal Realism and Welfare State Studies with Professor Duncan Kennedy, Harvard Law School

Additional Research Interests

  • Law and Anthropology
  • Informal Economy and Employment Law
  • Gender and Sexuality Studies
  • Law and Development
  • Immigration Law


  • Harvard Law School, S.J.D. Candidate 2016-Present
  • Harvard Law School, LL.M., 2015-2016 (requirements fulfilled, degree waived)
  • Tsinghua University, School of Law, China, LL.B., 2011-2015

Academic Appointments and Fellowships

  • Weatherhead Initiative on Gender Inequality Research Grant, Harvard University, 2018-2019
  • Harvard Law School Graduate Program Fellowship, VSVR Coordinator, Harvard Law School, 2018-2019
  • Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies Summer Research Fellowship, Harvard University, 2018
  • Comparative Law: Why Law? Lessons from China, Teaching Fellow, Harvard Law School, 2018
  • Harvard Law School Graduate Program Fellowship, Graduate Forum Coordinator, Harvard Law School, 2017-2018
  • F. Y. Chan Scholarship, Harvard Law School, 2017-2018
  • East Asian Legal Studies Research Fellowship, Harvard Law School, 2017
  • Minglun International Law Scholarship, Tsinghua University School of Law 2015-2016

Additional Information

Bar Admissions: Admitted to the bar of New York State, 2018; Passed bar exam of People’s Republic of China, 2015.

Languages: English, Mandarin (native), Japanese (beginner), French (beginner)

Last Updated: November 26, 2018