Social Indicators Research

, Volume 145, Issue 1, pp 257–278 | Cite as

Adult Children’s Education and Later-Life Health of Parents in China: The Intergenerational Effects of Human Capital Investment

  • Nan JiangEmail author
Original Research


Recent research has shown that in high-income countries, investing in children’s education could be an effective strategy to improve parental health in older age. However, little is known about whether this pattern exists in China, a rapidly aging context with strong filial piety traditions and a weak public support system for older adults. Using longitudinal data from the China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Study, we used Cox proportional hazards and multinomial logistic regression models to investigate changes in both mortality and subjective health (self-reported health) outcomes. We assessed the association separately by parental gender. Having college-educated children was associated with a 31% decline in the hazard of parental death (adj. HR 0.69, p < .05). The odds of parents with children who completed secondary education maintaining good health was 1.80 times that of the parents whose children completed primary education or less (OR 1.80, p < .001). We found no gender difference among parents with respect to the association between children’s educational attainment and parental health. Children’s education might be a prominent factor in magnifying existing health disparities among Chinese older adults. We urge policymakers to consider the multigenerational advantages of expanding educational opportunities in China for not only college but also secondary education.


China Aging Education Mortality Self-rated health 



The author would like to thank Professor Neeraj Kaushal, Professor Ada C. Mui, Professor Qin Gao at Columbia University on their mentorship in research design and discussion.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The author reports no conflicts of interest.


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Social WorkColumbia UniversityNew YorkUSA

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