Living arrangement of the elderly in China, 1990: Modernization and demographic factors

Jing Shi, Fordham University


Accelerated population aging in China, as a result of its dramatic fertility decline, raises concern over the long-term care and the social support system of the elderly. Currently, the extended family plays the major role in providing support to their elderly members. However, socioeconomic development in China will inevitably put tremendous pressure on the existing family support system. The overall objective of the current study is to examine both modernization and demographic factors affecting the living arrangements of the elderly in China. The current study focuses on two government policies--the pension program and the urbanization policy. After 40 years of development, the pension programs providing economic resources to the elderly are now commonly practiced in large cities. Aiming to avoid the strain on the urban infrastructure, the Chinese government has adopted a new urbanization strategy since the early 1980s to vigorously promote the growth of small cities to absorb the surplus rural labor force. The current study employs a 1 percent sample of 1990 China census data from Jiangsu Province. Our study reveals a higher tendency for the elderly in big regional-graded-cities to double up with their children. In contrast, the elderly in county-graded-cities and towns shows a lower likelihood of co-residing with children which is consistent with the government's effort to vigorously promote these types of cities. The importance of pension is supported, having guaranteed pension income is one important reason for the elderly to live separately from their children. The study also demonstrates the importance of distinguishing the marital status of co-residing children. Greater economic resources in terms of independent sources of income (earnings and pension) and greater guaranteed services associated with household registration have more notable effects on reducing the need for support from married children. Their lesser effects on unmarried children are consistent with the argument that the flow of support is more likely to be from parent to child if the child is unmarried. The finding that widowed males and females are more likely to be incorporated into married children households is also supportive of the flow of support distinction.

Subject Area

Demographics|Gerontology|Families & family life|Personal relationships|Sociology

Recommended Citation

Shi, Jing, "Living arrangement of the elderly in China, 1990: Modernization and demographic factors" (1997). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9806947.