Living in the neighborhood or living together? Residential arrangement and cognitive health of the elderly in rural China

YU Yangyang1 CHEN Jie2

(1.School of Public Economics and Administration, Shanghai University of Finance and Economics, Shanghai, China 200433)
(2.School of International and Public Affairs, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Shanghai, China 200030)

【Abstract】Under the wave of urbanization, the living mode of the elderly in rural areas in China has gradually changed from parent-child living together to independent living. At the same time, the living pattern of children living in the same county and city has gradually emerged, namely, separating without leaving the county or leaving the land but not leaving the county. At present, the research on the relationship between the living mode and the health of the elderly seldom takes children’s living situation into account, and there is no strict causal inference analysis on the cognitive health of the rural elderly. Based on the above, this paper studied the impact of children’s living distance on the cognitive health of the elderly. Meanwhile, this paper paid more attention to the impact of family care accessibility and the right to privacy of independent living. Using 2011−2015 China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Study (CHARLS) data, after controlling endogeneity bias by combining the panel fixed model and instrumental variables, we obtained the following empirical results. First, when couples live together, the mode of the elderly living alone is generally more conducive to the improvement of their cognitive health than that of parents and children living together, but in the case of widows or widowers, it is difficult to get cognitive health benefits from the mode of living alone. Second, when couples live together, the best distance is that children live in the neighborhood in the same county. But with the increase of the age of the elderly, the cognitive health benefits of children living in the neighborhood decrease. As far as the mechanism is concerned, it can be attributed to the fact that the elderly care in the family is provided by the spouse, which reduces the health risk caused by the remote living of children and the decrease of accessibility of family care (such as face-to-face communication), and the health benefits of the right to privacy and freedom of independent living are higher. However, for the elderly, living far away from their children is obviously not conducive to the improvement of cognitive health level when they live alone, or even worse than living with their children, which highlights the importance of care from children. In particular, through the heterogeneity analysis, we found that the old men living alone with children living in the neighborhood is not as good as living together with children; children living far away will make the cognitive health (memory score) of the elderly couples living together with low educational level worsen. Therefore, to maintain and improve the cognitive health of the elderly, there is an optimal distance for children to live, that is, there is a certain substitution relationship between the accessibility of family care and the health benefits of the right to privacy of independent living, and the marginal balance point of this substitution relationship is heterogeneous in different types of the elderly. The findings of this study provided a basis for decision-making to balance the conflict between children’s personal development opportunities and traditional family security responsibilities, and to realize the new urbanization path and the coordinated development of healthy aging. Specifically, there are three suggestions. First, the new urbanization strategy and the rural revitalization strategy should be organically combined to create conditions for the rural youth to have opportunities to develop nearby. Second, through policy design, young people in rural areas who are willing to live close to their parents should be encouraged. Third, the construction of the social care system in rural areas should be accelerated.

【Keywords】 living mode; live in the neighborhood; rural elderly; cognitive health;


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CN: 31-1012/F

Vol 46, No. 08, Pages 49-63+155

August 2020


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