The Effect of Adult Children’s Working Hours on Visits to Elderly Parents: A Natural Experiment in Korea

  • Erin Hye-Won Kim
  • Changjun Lee
  • Young Kyung Do


Despite its significant policy implications, little is known about the impact working hours have on how often workers visit their elderly parents. Evidence is particularly lacking on men’s overtime work and workers in Asia. We examine the causal impact of male workers’ working times on parental visits, using a natural experiment to eliminate potential endogeneity bias. In 2004, the Korean government began reducing its legal workweek from 44 to 40 h, gradually expanding it from larger to smaller establishments by 2011. Using annual longitudinal data from the 2005 to 2014 Korea Labor and Income Panel Study (N = 7005 person-waves), we estimated an instrumental variable (IV) fixed-effects (FE) regression model. Our IV was an indicator variable of whether an individual full-time worker’s legal workweek was reduced to 40 h in a given year. The results showed that working one additional hour a week lowered the frequency of visits by 6.5% (95% confidence interval [− 13.0%, 0.0%]), which was not apparent in a FE model without the IV. Working long hours has implications for workers’ interactions with their elderly parents, and the failure to consider endogeneity in actual working hours may understate the negative effect. Reducing work hours may serve as an effective policy intervention for improving the well-being of older adults in rapidly aging Asian countries in a work-oriented and family-centered culture. We also highlight the need for further attention to men’s work hours, which are often considered much less important than women’s work status in population research on intergenerational support.


Working hours Time support for elderly parents Work–family conflict Men’s overtime work Instrumental variable Korea 



This work was supported by the Humanities and Social Sciences Research Fund from the National University of Singapore. Sylvia Hao Zhang provided excellent research.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Lee Kuan Yew School of Public PolicyNational University of SingaporeSingaporeSingapore
  2. 2.Spatial Dynamics LabUniversity College DublinDublinIreland
  3. 3.Department of Health Policy and ManagementSeoul National University College of MedicineSeoulKorea
  4. 4.Institute of Health Policy and ManagementSeoul National University Medical Research CenterSeoulKorea

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