Journal of Population Economics

, Volume 32, Issue 2, pp 529–549 | Cite as

Family support or social support? The role of clan culture

  • Chuanchuan ZhangEmail author
Original Paper


This paper examines the impact of cultural norms on arrangements made for old-age support. Using data from a recent national household survey in China, I show that clan culture is significantly associated with a set of individual values about the purpose of childbearing. I then find that, among older people in rural China, clan culture is positively related to birth rates and the likelihood of having a son, coresidence with adult or married sons, and receiving financial transfers from non-coresident children. Finally, I find a significantly negative relationship between clan culture and enrollment in social pension programs. The overall results indicate that cultural norms have a significant influence on arrangements for old-age support.


Culture Clan Living arrangement Intergenerational transfer Social pension China 

JEL classification

H55 J13 J14 Z13 



I would like to thank Wei Huang as well as seminar participations at Fudan University, Shanghai University of International Business and Economics, and the 2017 Chinese Economists Society (CES) annual conference for their helpful comments. I am also grateful to three anonymous referees and the editor Junsen Zhang for helpful comments and suggestions.

Funding information

This study was funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (71503282), the Young Elite Teacher Project of Central University of Finance and Economics (QYP1609), and the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The author declares that he has no conflict of interest.


  1. Alesina A, Giuliano P (2015) Culture and institutions. J Econ Lit 53(4):898–944. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Almond D, Edlund L, Milligan K (2013) Son preference and the persistence of culture: evidence from South and East Asian immigrants to Canada. Popul Dev Rev 39(1):75–95. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Aquilino W (1990) The likelihood of parent-adult child coresidence: effect of family structure and parental characteristics. J Marriage Fam 52(2):405–419. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Barro R (1974) Are government bonds net wealth? J Polit Econ 82(6):1095–1117. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Becker G (1974) A theory of social interactions. J Polit Econ 82(6):1063–1093. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Borck R (2014) Adieu Rabenmutter-culture, fertility, female labour supply, the gender wage gap and childcare. J Popul Econ 27(3):739–765. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Chen Y, Li H, Meng L (2013) Prenatal sex selection and missing girls in China: evidence from the diffusion of diagnostic ultrasound. J Hum Resour 48(1):36–70Google Scholar
  8. Choi N (2003) Coresidence between unmarried aging parents and their adult child: who moved in with whom and why? Res Aging 25(4):384–404. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Costa-Font J (2010) Family ties and the crowding out of long-term care insurance. Oxf Rev Econ Policy 26(4):691–712. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Cox D (1987) Motives for private income transfers. J Polit Econ 95(3):508–546. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Currie, Janet. 2006. The take-up of social benefits, chap. 3. New York: USA, 80–149Google Scholar
  12. Edward L. Davis (editor), Encyclopedia of Contemporary Chinese Culture, Routledge, 2004Google Scholar
  13. Ebenstein A (2010) The missing girls of China and the unintended consequences of the one child policy. J Hum Resour 45(1):87–115Google Scholar
  14. Ebenstein, Avraham. 2014. Patrilocality and missing womenCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Ebenstein A, Leung S (2010) Son preference and access to social insurance: evidence from China’s rural pension program. Popul Dev Rev 36(1):47–70. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Eugster B, Lalive R, Steinhauer A, Zweimšuller J (2011) The demand for social insurance: does culture matter? Econ J 121(556):F413–F448CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Feng, Erkang. 1991. Zhongguo Zongzu Shi [Chinese clan history]. Shanghai People’s publishing House.23Google Scholar
  18. Feng, Erkang. 2013. Zhongguo Gudai de Zongzu he Citang [clans and Ancetral temples in ancient China]. The Commercial PressGoogle Scholar
  19. Fernandez R (2007) Alfred Marshall lecture women, work, and culture. J Eur Econ Assoc 5(2–3):305–332. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Fernandez, Raquel. 2010. Does culture matter? Working paper W16277, National Bureau of Economic ResearchGoogle Scholar
  21. Fernandez R, Fogli A (2009) Culture: an empirical investigation of beliefs, work, and fertility. Am Econ J Macroecon 1(1):146–177CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Galasso, Vincenzo and Paola Profeta. 2010. When the state mirrors the family: the design of pension systems. Working paper 3191, CESifoGoogle Scholar
  23. Greif A (1994) Cultural beliefs and the organization of society: a historical and theoretical reflection on collectivist and individualist societies. J Polit Econ 102(5):912–950. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Greif A, Tabellini G (2010) Cultural and institutional bifurcation: China and Europe compared. Am Econ Rev: Papers Proc 100(2):1–10CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Greif, Avner and Tabellini, Guido, The Clan and the City: Sustaining Cooperation in China and Europe (2012). CEPR discussion paper no. DP9072. Available at SSRN:
  26. Guiso L, Sapienza P, Zingales L (2006) Does culture affect economic outcomes. J Econ Perspect 20(2):23–48. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Gupta MD (2006) Cultural versus biological factors in explaining Asia’s missing women: response to Oster. Popul Dev Rev 32(2):328–332. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Harrell, Steven. 2002. Patriliny, patriarchy, patrimony surface features and deep structures in the Chinese family system. URL
  29. Hernanz, Virginia, Franck Malherbet, and Michele Pellizzari. 2004. Take-up of welfare benefits in OECD countries: a review of the evidence. Working papers 17, OECD Social, Employment and Migration Working Papers No.17. URL doi:
  30. Hsu FLK (1963) Clan, caste and club: a comparative study of Chinese, Hindu, and American ways of life. Van Nostrand, Princeton, NJGoogle Scholar
  31. Huang, Wei and Chuanchuan Zhang. 2016. The Power of Social Pensions. Working paper 10425, IZAGoogle Scholar
  32. Kahn J, Goldscheider F, Carcia-Manglano J (2013) Growing parental economic power in parent-adult child household: Coresidence and financial dependency in the United States, 1960-2010. Demography 50(4):1449–1475. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Lei X, Zhang C, Zhao Y (2013) Incentive problems in China’s new rural pension program. Res Labor Econ 37:181–201. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Li H, Yi J, Zhang J (2011) Estimating the effect of the One-Child Policy on the sex ratio imbalance in China: identification based on the difference-in-differences. Demography 48(4):1535–1557 24CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Liu H, Qi S, Zhao Z (2014) Social learning and health insurance enrollment: evidence from China’s new cooperative medical scheme. J Econ Behav Organ 97:84–102. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Liu PW, Zhang J, Zhang J (2005) Why many eligible individuals choose not to go on welfare. Econ Inq 43(3):385–400. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Lu, Jie (2014) Varieties of governance in China: migration and institutional change in Chinese villages. Oxford University Press, DOI:
  38. Manacorda M, Moretti E (2006) Why do most Italian youths live with their parents? Intergenerational transfers and household structure. J Eur Econ Assoc 4(4):800–829. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Matsaganis M, Paulus A, Sutherland H (2008) The take up of social benefits. Eur Observ Soc Situat Demogr: Res Note 2Google Scholar
  40. Matsudaira J (2016) Economic conditions and the living arrangements of young adult: 1960-2011. J Popul Econ 29(1):167–195. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Padrói Miquel, Gerard and Qian, Nancy and Xu, Yiqing and Yao, Yang (2015) Making democracy work: culture, social capital and elections in China. NBER Working Paper No. w21058. Available at SSRN:
  42. Peng Y (2004) Kinship networks and entrepreneurs in China’s transitional economy. Am J Sociol 109(5):1045–1074. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Qian N (2008) Missing women and the price of tea in China: the effect of income on sex imbalance. Q J Econ 123(3):1251–1285. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Shi S-J (2006) Left to market and family again? Ideas and the development of the rural pension policy in China. Soc Policy Adm 40(7):791–806. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Ulker A (2008) Household structure and consumption Insurance of the Elderly. J Popul Econ 21(2):373–394. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Wang D (2006) China’s urban and rural old age security system: challenges and options. Chin World Econ 14(1):102–116. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Ward R, Logan J, Spitze G (1992) The influence of parent and child needs on Coresidence in middle and later life. J Marriage Fam 54(1):209–221. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Watson J (1982) Chinese kinship reconsidered: anthropological perspectives on historical research. Chin Q 92:589–622. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Zeng Y (1995) China’s agenda for an old-age insurance program in rural areas. J Aging Soc Policy 6(4):101–114 25CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of EconomicsCentral University of Finance and EconomicsBeijingChina

Personalised recommendations