Do Social Pensions Help People Living on the Edge? Assessing Determinants of Vulnerability to Food Poverty Among the Rural Elderly

  • Zhaohua ZhangEmail author
  • Yuxi Luo
  • Derrick Robinson
Original Article


This study investigates the effect of the New Rural Pension Scheme (NRPS) on the ex post food poverty and ex ante vulnerability of the rural elderly across different regions, by applying a nationally representative survey dataset. Using province-specific food poverty lines calculated by a least-cost linear programming approach, the overall estimated vulnerability to food poverty in rural China is 28.7%, with a majority of them being vulnerable due to low expected food expenditure. Regional analysis indicates that more developed regions experience lower food poverty incidence and vulnerability compared with less developed regions. To address the endogeneity of pension payment, a fuzzy regression discontinuity design finds that pension income significantly increased the expected food expenditure amongst the elderly, thus decreasing the vulnerability. Estimation results for heterogeneous groups suggest that the NRPS worked better for the elderly who are chronically poor and those who are vulnerable due to low expected food expenditure.


Social pension The New Rural Pension Scheme Food poverty Vulnerability Elderly 


Cette étude examine les effets du nouveau régime de retraite en milieu rural (NRPS) sur la pauvreté alimentaire en aval et, en amont, sur la vulnérabilité des personnes âgées en milieu rural dans différentes régions, en appliquant un ensemble de données d’enquête représentatif au niveau national. En utilisant des seuils de pauvreté alimentaire spécifiques à chaque province calculés selon une approche de programmation linéaire au moindre coût, la vulnérabilité globale à la pauvreté alimentaire en Chine rurale est estimée à 28,7%, la majorité d’entre eux étant vulnérables en raison de faibles dépenses alimentaires prévues. Une analyse régionale indique que les régions plus développées connaissent une incidence et une vulnérabilité de la pauvreté alimentaire plus faibles que les régions moins développées. Pour remédier à l’endogénéité des paiements de retraite, la méthode de la régression avec discontinuité floue a montré que les revenus de la retraite augmentaient de manière significative les dépenses alimentaires prévues chez les personnes âgées, réduisant ainsi la vulnérabilité. Les résultats des estimations pour des groupes hétérogènes suggèrent que le NRPS a mieux fonctionné pour les personnes âgées chroniquement pauvres et vulnérables en raison de faibles dépenses alimentaires prévues.

JEL Classification

H55 R28 J14 I32 



This study was funded by National Natural Science Foundation of China (71503181).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.


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Copyright information

© European Association of Development Research and Training Institutes (EADI) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.College of Economics and ManagementShandong Agricultural UniversityTai’anChina
  2. 2.School of Economics and ManagementGuangxi Normal UniversityGuilinChina
  3. 3.Division of Agriculture and Natural ResourcesUniversity of CaliforniaSan DiegoUSA

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