With the introduction of the New Rural Social Pension Scheme (NRSPS), pension coverage in rural China has increased substantially during the last decade. We investigate how the new public pension benefits influence intergenerational transfers and subjective well-being of older adults in rural China using panel data from the 2011 and 2013 waves of the China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Study (CHARLS). The results of our first-difference regression models show that receiving a public pension goes along with an increase in intergenerational financial support and has a positive impact on the subjective well-being of older adults in rural China. Our analysis represents one of the first studies examining the effects of the introduction of the NRSPS from a longitudinal perspective. The results demonstrate that public pension benefits as a form of institutional financial support are beneficial to the well-being of older adults, while they do not hinder intergenerational exchange.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Albertini, M., Kohli, M., & Vogel, C. (2007). Intergenerational transfers of time and money in European families: common patterns different regimes? Journal of European Social Policy, 17, 319–334.
Allison, P. D. (2009). Fixed effects regression models. Los Angeles: SAGE.
Ao, X., Jiang, D., & Zhao, Z. (2016). The impact of rural–urban migration on the health of the left-behind parents. China Economic Review, 37, 126–139. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chieco.2015.09.007.
Attias-Donfut, C., Ogg, J., & Wolff, F.-C. (2005). European patterns of intergenerational financial and time transfers. European Journal of Ageing, 2, 161–173.
Béland, D., & Yu, K. M. (2004). A long financial march: pension reform in China. Journal of Social Policy, 33, 267–288.
Brenes-Camacho, G. (2011). Favourable changes in economic wellbeing and self-rated health among the elderly. Social Science & Medicine, 72, 1228–1235.
Brüderl, J., & Ludwig, V. (2014). Fixed-Effects Panel Regression. In H. Best & C. Wolf (Eds.), The SAGE Handbook of Regression Analysis and Causal Inference (pp. 327–358). London: SAGE Publications Ltd.
Calvo, E., & Williamson, J. B. (2008). Old-age pension reform and modernization pathways: Lessons for China from Latin America. Journal of Aging studies, 22(1), 74–87.
Center for Economic Research Institute of Social Science Survey (2015). China health and retirement longitudinal study- follow-up 2013. Peking: Peking University, Retrieved from http://charls.ccer.edu.cn/uploads/document/2013-charls-wave2/application/CHARLS_Wave2_CodeBook.pdf. Accessed 1 Dec 2015.
Chan, C. K. (2010). Re-thinking the incrementalist thesis in China: a reflection on the development of the minimum standard of living scheme in urban and rural areas. Journal of Social Policy, 39, 627–645.
Chen, J., & Jordan, L. P. (2018). Intergenerational support and life satisfaction of young-, old- and oldest-old adults in China. Aging & Mental Health, 22(3), 412–420. https://doi.org/10.1080/13607863.2016.1261798.
Chen, X., & Silverstein, M. (2000). Intergenerational social support and the psychological well-being of older parents in China. Research on Aging, 22, 43–65. https://doi.org/10.1177/0164027500221003.
Chen, T., & Turner, J. (2015). Gender and public pensions in China: do pensions reduce the gender gap in compensation? Sustainability, 7, 1355–1369.
Chen, X., & Wang, T. (2016). Does money relieve depression? Evidence from social pension eligibility. IZA Discussion Papers, No. 10037.
Chen, X., Eggleston, K., & Sun, A. (2018). The impact of social pensions on intergenerational relationships: Comparative evidence from China. The Journal of the Economics of Ageing 12: 225-235.
Cong, Z., & Silverstein, M. (2008). Intergenerational time-for-money exchanges in rural China: foes reciprocity reduce depressive symptoms of older grandparents? Research in Human Development, 5, 6–25.
Costa, D. L. (1997). Displacing the family: union army pensions and elderly living arrangements. Journal of Political Economy, 105(6), 1269–1292. https://doi.org/10.1086/516392.
Cox, D. (1987). Motives for private income transfers. Journal of Political Economy, 95(3), 508–546. https://doi.org/10.1086/261470.
Cox, D., & Jakubson, G. (1995). The connection between public transfers and private interfamily transfers. Journal of Public Economics, 57(1), 129–167. https://doi.org/10.1016/0047-2727(94)01438-T.
D’Ambrosio, C., Clark, A., & Ghislandi, S. (2016). Adaptation to poverty in long-run panel data. Review of Economics and Statistics, 98, 591–600.
Daatland, S. O., & Lowenstein, A. (2005). Intergenerational solidarity and the family–welfare state balance. European Journal of Ageing, 2, 174–182.
Deindl, C., & Brandt, M. (2011). Financial support and practical help between older parents and their middle-aged children in Europe. Ageing and Society, 31, 645–662.
Diener, E., & Biswas-Diener, R. (2002). Will money increase subjective well-being? A literature review and guide to needed research. Social Indicators Research, 95, 543–575.
Diener, E., & Diener, M. (2009). Cross-cultural correlates of life satisfaction and self-esteem. In P. E. Diener (Ed.), Culture and Wellbeing (pp. 71–91). Netherlands: Springer.
Dorfman, M. C., Holzmann, R., O'keefe, P., Wang, D., Sin, Y., & Hinz, R. (2013). China's pension system: A vision. Washington, D.C.: The World Bank.
Edwards, J. N., & Klemmack, D. L. (1973). Correlates of life satisfaction: a re-examination. Journal of Gerontology, 28, 497–502.
Ellwardt, L., Peter, S., Präg, P., & Steverink, N. (2014). Social contacts of older people in 27 European countries: the role of welfare spending and economic inequality. European Sociological Review, 30, 413–430.
Emery, J. C. H., & Matheson, J. A. (2012). Should income transfers be targeted or universal? Insights from public pension influences on elderly mortality in Canada, 1921–1966. Canadian Journal of Economics/Revue Canadienne D’économique, 45, 247–269.
Esser, I., & Palme, J. (2010). Do public pensions matter for health and wellbeing among retired persons? Basic and income security pensions across 13 Western European countries. International Journal of Social Welfare, 19, S103–S120.
Fisher, K. R., Shang, X., & Li, Z. (2011). Absent role of the state: analysis of social support to older people with disabilities in rural China: absent role of the state. Social Policy and Administration, 45(6), 633–648. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9515.2011.00799.x.
Frijters, P., Haisken-DeNew, J. P., & Shields, M. A. (2004). Money does matter! Evidence from increasing real income and life satisfaction in East Germany following reunification. The American Economic Review, 94, 730–740.
Giles, J., Lei, X., Wang, Y. & Zhao, Y. (2015). One country, two systems: Evidence on retirement patterns in China, Washington, DC and Beijing: World Bank and Peking University. Retrieved from http://abfer.org/docs/2015/program-4/one-country-two-systems-evidences-on-retirement-patterns-in-china.pdf.
Greene, W. H. (2011). Econometric analysis. Boston: Prentice Hall.
Guo, M., Aranda, M. P., & Silverstein, M. (2009). The impact of out-migration on the inter-generational support and psychological wellbeing of older adults in rural China. Ageing and Society, 29, 1085–1104. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0144686X0900871X.
Huang, W. & Zhang, C. (2016). The power of social pensions. IZA Working Paper (No. 10425).
Kangas, O., & Palme, J. (2000). Does social policy matter? Poverty cycles in OECD countries. International Journal of Health Services, 30, 335–352.
Lee, Y.-J., & Xiao, Z. (1998). Children’s support for elderly parents in urban and rural China: results from a national survey. Journal of Cross-Cultural Gerontology, 13, 39–62.
Lei, X., Sun, X., Strauss, J., Zhang, P., & Zhao, Y. (2014). Depressive symptoms and SES among the mid-aged and elderly in China: evidence from the China health and retirement longitudinal study national baseline. Social Science & Medicine, 120, 224–232.
Leisering, L., Sen, G. & Hussain, A. (2002). People’s republic of China. Old-age pensions for the rural areas: From land reform to globalization. Manila, Philippines: Asian Development Bank. Retrieved from http://www.uni-bielefeld.de/%28en%29/soz/personen/Leisering/pdf/prc_old_age_pensions.pdf. Accessed 2 Nov 2017.
Li, H., Chi, I., & Xu, L. (2013). Life satisfaction of older Chinese adults living in rural communities. Journal of Cross-Cultural Gerontology, 28, 153–165. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10823-013-9189-2.
Liu, T., & Sun, L. (2015). An apocalyptic vision of ageing in China. Zeitschrift für Gerontologie und Geriatrie, 48(4), 354–364.
Liu, T., & Sun, L. (2016). Pension reform in China. Journal of Aging & Social Policy, 28, 15–28.
Lowenstein, A., Katz, R., & Gur-Yaish, N. (2007). Reciprocity in parent-child exchange and life satisfaction among the elderly: a cross-national perspective: reciprocity and life satisfaction. Journal of Social Issues, 63, 865–883.
Motel-Klingebiel, A., Tesch-Roemer, C., & Von Kondratowitz, H.-J. (2005). Welfare states do not crowd out the family: evidence for mixed responsibility from comparative analyses. Ageing and Society, 25, 863–882.
OECD, World Bank & IDB (2014). Pensions at a glance: Latin America and the Caribbean. Washington, DC: World Bank Group. Retrived from http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/794051468016189496/Pensions-at-a-glance-Latin-America-and-the-Caribbean. Accessed 2 Nov 2017.
Olivera, J., & Ponomarenko, V. (2017). Pension insecurity and wellbeing in Europe. Journal of Social Policy, 46(3), 517–542. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0047279416000787.
Ong, B. C. & Bista, C. P., (2015). The state of social protection in ASEAN at the dawn of integration. Bangkok, Thailand: International Labor Organization. Retrieved From: http://www.ilo.org/jakarta/whatwedo/publications/WCMS_428982/lang%2D%2Den/index.htm. Accessed 22 Dec 2017.
Pei, X., & Tang, Y. (2010). Old age protection in the context of rural development. IDS Bulletin, 41, 22–30. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1759-5436.2010.00149.x.
Pension Watch (n.d.). China | Country fact file | Pension watch. Retrieved from http://www.pension-watch.net/pensions/country-fact-file/china. Accssed 15 Feb 2016.
Salditt, F., Whiteford, P., & Adema, W. (2008). Pension reform in China. International Social Security Review, 61, 47–71.
Saunders, P., & Sun, L. J. (2006). Poverty and hardship among the aged in urban China. Social Policy and Administration, 40, 138–157.
Schatz, E., Gómez-Olivé, X., Ralston, M., Menken, J., & Tollman, S. (2012). The impact of pensions on health and wellbeing in rural South Africa: does gender matter? Social Science & Medicine, 75, 1864–1873. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2012.07.004.
Schwarz, B., Trommsdorff, G., Zheng, G., & Shi, S. (2010). Reciprocity in intergenerational support: a comparison of Chinese and German adult daughters. Journal of Family Issues, 31(2), 234–256. https://doi.org/10.1177/0192513X09347991.
Shen, Y. (2014). Community building and mental health in mid-life and older life: evidence from China. Social Science & Medicine, 107, 209–216. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2013.12.023.
Shen, C., & Williamson, J. B. (2010). China’s new rural pension scheme: can it be improved? International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, 30, 239–250.
Shen, Y., & Yeatts, D. E. (2013). Social support and life satisfaction among older adults in China: family-based support versus community-based support. The International Journal of Aging and Human Development, 77, 189–209. https://doi.org/10.2190/AG.77.3.b.
Siegrist, J., & Marmot, M. (2004). Health inequalities and the psychosocial environment—two scientific challenges. Social Science & Medicine, 58, 1463–1473.
Silverstein, M., Gans, D., & Yang, F. M. (2006). Intergenerational support to aging parents: the role of norms and needs. Journal of Family Issues, 27(8), 1068–1084.
Sung, K.-T. (1998). An exploration of actions of filial piety. Journal of Aging Studies, 12(4), 369–386.
Taniguchi, H., & Kaufman, G. (2017). Filial norms, co-residence, and intergenerational exchange in Japan. Social Science Quarterly, 98(5), 1518–1535. https://doi.org/10.1111/ssqu.12365.
Tsui, K. (1998). Factor decomposition of Chinese rural income inequality: new methodology, empirical findings, and policy implications. Journal of Comparative Economics, 26, 502–528.
Vilela, A. (2013). Pension coverage in China and the expansion of the new rural social pension, London: HelpAge International. Retrieved from http://www.refworld.org/pdfid/5301df5d4.pdf. Accessed 15 Feb 2016.
Wang, X., Shang, X., & Xu, L. (2011). Subjective well-being poverty of the elderly population in China. Social Policy and Administration, 45(6), 714–731. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9515.2011.00804.x.
Xu, Y. (2001). Family support for old people in rural China. Social Policy and Administration, 35(3), 307–320. https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-9515.00235.
Xu, L., & Chi, I. (2011). Life satisfaction among rural Chinese grandparents: the roles of intergenerational family relationship and support exchange with grandchildren. International Journal of Social Welfare, 20, S148–S159. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-2397.2011.00809.x.
Yamato, R. (2006). Changing attitudes towards elderly dependence in postwar Japan. Current Sociology, 54(2), 273–291. https://doi.org/10.1177/0011392106056746.
Yang, D. T. (1999). Urban-biased policies and rising income inequality in China. The American Economic Review, 89, 306–310.
Yeatts, D. E., Pei, X., Cready, C. M., Shen, Y., Luo, H., & Tan, J. (2013). Village characteristics and health of rural Chinese older adults: examining the CHARLS pilot study of a rich and poor province. Social Science & Medicine, 98, 71–78. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2013.08.041.
Zhang, N. J., Guo, M., & Zheng, X. (2012). China: awakening giant developing solutions to population aging. The Gerontologist, 52, 589–596.
Zhang, C. C., Giles, J., & Zhao, Y. H. (2014). Policy evaluation of China’s new rural pension program: income, poverty, expenditure, subjective wellbeing and labor supply. China Economic Quarterly, 14, 203–230 (in Chinese).
Zhao, Y., Strauss, J., Yang, G., Giles, J., Hu, P., Hu, Y., Lei, X., Liu, M., Park, A., Smith, J. P., & Wang, Y. (2013). China health and retirement longitudinal study–2011-2012 National Baseline Users’ guide. Beijing: Peking University.
We would like to thank Tao Liu and the participants of the RC28 conference in Singapore for helpful comments on earlier versions of the paper as well as the China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Study (CHARLS) team for providing data.
Conflict of Interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
About this article
Cite this article
Ko, PC., Möhring, K. Chipping In or Crowding-Out? The Impact of Pension Receipt on Older Adults’ Intergenerational Support and Subjective Well-Being in Rural China. J Cross Cult Gerontol 36, 139–154 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10823-020-09422-8
- Rural China
- Subjective well-being
- Intergenerational support