, Volume 51, Issue 2, pp 599–617 | Cite as

The Effects of Grandparents on Children’s Schooling: Evidence From Rural China

  • Zhen ZengEmail author
  • Yu Xie


The issue of whether the social class of grandparents affects grandchildren’s socioeconomic outcomes net of the characteristics of the middle generation is much debated in the social mobility literature. Using data from the 2002 Chinese Household Income Project, we investigate the direct effects of grandparents on grandchildren’s educational attainment in rural China. We find that the influence of grandparents is contingent on living arrangements. Although the educational level of coresident grandparents directly affects the educational attainment of their grandchildren, with an effect size similar to that of parental education, the education of noncoresident and deceased grandparents does not have any effect. These findings suggest that grandparents can directly affect grandchildren’s educational outcomes through sociopsychological pathways. Our study not only adds an important case study to the literature but also sheds new light on theoretical interpretations of grandparent effects when they are found.


Multigenerational mobility Grandparent effects Coresidence Children’s education Rural China 



The authors are grateful to Renmin University’s support of the analysis of the 2005 China Inter-Census Survey conducted by Xiwei Wu for this research. Yu Xie’s research is partially supported by Peking University and the University of Michigan through the Survey Research Center and the Population Studies Center, which receives core support from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, Grant R24HD041028. The ideas expressed herein are those of the authors.


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Copyright information

© Population Association of America 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyUniversity of WisconsinMadisonUSA
  2. 2.Institute for Social ResearchUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  3. 3.Center for Social ResearchPeking UniversityBeijingChina

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