, Volume 44, Issue 2, pp 265-288

Elderly parent health and the migration decisions of adult children: Evidence from rural China

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Recent research has shown that participation in migrant labor markets has led to substantial increases in income for families in rural China. This article addresses the question of how participation is affected by elderly parent health. We find that younger adults are less likely to work as migrants when a parent is ill. Poor health of an elderly parent has less impact on the probability of employment as a migrant when an adult child has siblings who may be available to provide care. We also highlight the potential importance of including information on nonresident family members when studying how parent illness and elder care requirements influence the labor supply decisions of adult children.

We gratefully acknowledge financial support from the National Science Foundation (SES-0214702), the Michigan State University Intramural Research Grants Program, the Ford Foundation (Beijing), and the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs (Academy Scholars Program) at Harvard University. This article has benefited from helpful discussions with Dwayne Benjamin, Loren Brandt, Andrew Foster, Emily Hannum, John Logan, Xin Meng, Susan Short, John Strauss, Dominique van de Walle, and two anonymous referees. We are grateful to Xiaohui Zhang, Liqun Cao, and Changbao Zhao from the Research Center for the Rural Economy (RCRE) at China’s Ministry of Agriculture for assistance with the design and implementation of a supplemental survey to match RCRE’s ongoing village and household panel surveys. Supplementary materials (with additional background material and technical details) are available online at http://www. msu.edu/~giles/jgrmrevappend.pdf.