A new study examines how migration of an adult child affects the emotional health of elderly parents left-behind in China. It finds that migration reduces happiness and leads to more loneliness among the elderly.
Read more in:
Juliane Scheffel & Yiwei Zhang: How does internal migration affect the emotional health of elderly parents left-behind? Journal of Population Economics, Vol. 32 (2019), Issue 3, pp. 953-980.
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GLO Fellow Juliane Scheffel
Author Abstract: The ageing population resulting from the one-child policy and massive flows of internal migration in China pose major challenges to elderly care in rural areas where elderly support is based on a traditional inter-generational family support mechanism. We use data from the China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Study to examine how migration of an adult child affects the emotional health of elderly parents left-behind. We identify the effects using fixed effects and IV approaches which rely on different sources of variation. We find that migration reduces happiness by 6.6 percentage points and leads to a 3.3 percentage points higher probability of loneliness. CES-D scores of elderly parents are severely increased pushing average scores close to the cut-off indicating clinical levels of depressive symptoms. As emotional health is a key determinant of the overall health status, our findings have significant impacts on economic development in China.