Gender differences in adult children’s support for parents in rural China: an intergenerational perspective

ZHANG Chi1 XIANG Jing2 SHI Haibo1 Lyu Kaiyu1

(1.Institute of Agricultural Economics and Development, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences)
(2.Institute of Population and Labor Economics, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences)

【Abstract】Based on the China Family Panel Studies (CFPS) data in 2016, this article analyzes the gender differences in the support behavior of rural families’ children from the perspective of intergenerational differences and discusses the specific impact mechanism. The results show that, as a whole, there still remains a traditional elderly care model of raising sons to prepare for old age in rural areas. However, this traditional model begins to change among the new generation of children. The differences in financial support and care between daughters and sons have been greatly reduced, and the differences are no longer significant. This means that although the family elderly care mode with sons as the core in rural areas has not been completely changed, it has undergone significant change. By analyzing the behavior mechanism, the study further finds that the improvement of women’s status and the decrease in the number of children in the family promote adult daughters to provide more support for their parents. Meanwhile, the weakening of the traditional gender concept also has a role in pushing daughters to support their parents. In addition, the increase in rural elderly parents’ demand for care and the female advantage in emotion and care increase the role of daughters’ care, but the role in improving financial support is not obvious.

【Keywords】 rural family; adult children’s support; gender difference; intergenerational difference; patriarchal system;


【Funds】 The National Social Science Fund of China (16ZDA021) The National Social Science Fund of China (14CJY014) Science and Technology Innovation Project of Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (ASTIP-IAED-2019-03)

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(Translated by GU Hansong)


    [1]. ① In 2016, the total number of migrant workers in China was about 280 million, of which those aged 50 years old or below account for more than 80%. Among the migrant workers, men accounted for 68.3%, which is significantly higher than women. [^Back]

    [2]. ① Financial support includes cash and material support. The specific measurement of the amount of financial support is based on how much money parents receive on average per month, and the material support is converted into cash. [^Back]

    [3]. ① The variables of children’s characteristics are all from the 2016 CFPS adult database. [^Back]

    [4]. ② Since the information on parental characteristics is not counted in the adult database, the variable of parental characteristics is obtained by combining the adult database and the family relationship database. However, only basic information such as parents’ age, education, and type of household registration is counted in the family relationship database. More detailed parental information needs to be combined with the parent code to match the data in the parents’ adult database. However, the parents of many children, especially daughters, did not participate in the survey, which would result in the loss of a large number of children samples. After weighing, the two characteristic variables of parents’ age and education level were finally controlled. [^Back]

    [5]. ③ The dummy variables of 24 provinces (municipalities and autonomous regions) are controlled, and Beijing is adopted as the reference group. [^Back]

    [6]. ① Limited to the length of the article, this section describes the specific methods and results of the robustness test and does not list detailed estimation results, which can be requested from authors. [^Back]

    [7]. ① The result is obtained by calculating the sum of the main effect of children’s gender variable and the interaction effect of children’s gender and years of education. [^Back]


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This Article


CN: 11-3586/F

Vol , No. 06, Pages 91-108

November 2019


Article Outline


  • 1 Introduction
  • 2 Analysis framework and research hypothesis
  • 3 Data description and descriptive analysis
  • 4 Basic regression analysis
  • 5 Analysis of the mechanism affecting children’s support behavior
  • 6 Conclusion and implication
  • Footnote