, Volume 56, Issue 3, pp 813–833 | Cite as

Boys, Girls, and Grandparents: The Impact of the Sex of Preschool-Aged Children on Family Living Arrangements and Maternal Labor Supply

  • Ang SunEmail author
  • Chuanchuan Zhang
  • Xiangting Hu


In this study, we consider household decision-making on living arrangements and maternal labor supply in extended families with young children. In such a context, decision-making is driven by the concerns that the companionship of children is a household public good and that family members share childcare and related domestic duties. The incentive to share children’s companionship is affected by son preference, whereas the economic motive of labor division hinges on the potential wage rate of the mother. Both channels play important roles in households with mothers whose wage rates are high, while sharing the companionship of (grand) sons is the main driving force in households with mothers whose wage rates are low. Using China Health and Nutrition Survey (CHNS) data, we find that among less-educated mothers, the incidence of a family coresiding with the paternal grandmother is at least 8.6 percentage points higher if the firstborn is a boy. At the same time, maternal labor supply increases by 2.9 days per month. By contrast, for educated mothers, the propensity for coresidence is higher, the working hours are longer, and the impact of the child’s sex is not significant. Our study not only provides a better understanding of the demographic and economic factors determining coresidence and intrahousehold time allocations but also lends empirical support to policies aiming to increase female labor supply and improve the well-being of girls.


Living arrangements Gender inequality Childcare Maternal labor supply 



Ang Sun acknowledges financial support from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (71703187). Chuanchuan Zhang acknowledges financial support from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (71503282) and the Fok Ying-Tong Education Foundation for Young Teachers in the Higher Education Institutions of China. Ang Sun and Chuanchuan Zhang are the co-corresponding authors of this paper.

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Population Association of America 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Renmin University of ChinaBeijingChina
  2. 2.School of EconomicsCentral University of Finance and EconomicsBeijingChina
  3. 3.School of EconomicsHarbin Institute of TechnologyShenzhenChina

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