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What Happens to the Health of Elderly Parents When Adult Child Migration Splits Households? Evidence from Rural China


There is little understanding about the effects of adult child migration on the health of elderly parents left behind in the light of economic contribution and time allocation (farm work and emotional cohesion). Using the pooled data from three latest issues of China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Study (CHARLS) in the rural areas, this study assesses the impact of child migration on parents’ health by employing instrumental variable approach to deal with the endogeneity problem. Overall, the evidence suggests that adult child migration impairs parental health as indicated by lower self-reported health (SRH), body mass index (BMI), physical activity of daily living (PADL), and higher depression score. Moreover, parents who are female, poorly-educated, and living with one adult child at least are the most vulnerable groups in terms of poor health outcomes. The negative impact of farming burden on the health of parents left behind outweighs the positive impact of economic support and emotional cohesion. Thus, child migration exerts a significantly negative impact on parental health. Establishing medical and social security systems for the elderly is important to complement the traditional family support in rural China.

Keywords: adult child migration; parental health; inter-generational support; instrumental variables


Impact Factor: 2.468 (2018 Journal Citation Reports, Clarivate Analytics, 2019)




Li, T.; Wu, B.; Yi, F.; Wang, B.; Baležentis, T. 2020. What Happens to the Health of Elderly Parents When Adult Child Migration Splits Households? Evidence from Rural China. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, Vol.17, Issue 5,1609, EISSN 1660-4601;https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17051609; [AGORA (FAO); AGRIS - Agricultural Sciences and Technology (FAO); CAB Abstracts (CABI); Chemical Abstracts (ACS); Current Contents - Agriculture, Biology & Environmental Sciences (Clarivate Analytics); Current Contents - Clinical Medicine (Clarivate Analytics); DOAJ - Directory of Open Access Journals; EMBASE (Elsevier); FSTA - Food Science and Technology Abstracts (IFIS); Genamics JournalSeek; GeoBase (Elsevier); Global Health (CABI); HINARI (WHO); Journal Citation Reports / Science Edition (Clarivate Analytics); Journal Citation Reports / Social Science Edition (Clarivate Analytics); Julkaisufoorumi Publication Forum (Federation of Finnish Learned Societies); MEDLINE (NLM); Norwegian Register for Scientific Journals, Series and Publishers (NSD); PubMed (NLM); Science Citation Index Expanded - Web of Science (Clarivate Analytics); Scopus (Elsevier); Social Sciences Citation Index - Web of Science (Clarivate Analytics); Web of Science (Clarivate Analytics); Zetoc (British Library)].



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