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Cong, "Children's migration and the financial, social, and psychological well-being of older adults in rural China," 2008

USC Dissertation in Gerontology.
August 3, 2009

Zhen Cong, Ph.D.
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation consists of three independent papers, investigating how migration of working age adults from rural to urban areas in China influences intergenerational transfers, living arrangements, and the psychological well-being of elders who were raised and are embedded in the patrilineal family system.

Analyses were performed using data from a three-wave longitudinal survey, the Longitudinal Study of Older People in Anhui Province, China. Random effects regression analysis from the first study (4,101 parent-child dyads from 1,147 parents) showed that for the same amount of child care and financial help that elders provided, they reaped higher financial return from their adult migrant children than from their adult non-migrant children. In Chinese families, non-migrant children did not need to reciprocate for parents' help in the short run. However, because parents had higher bargaining power when they provided child care to migrant children and because parents' financial help to migrant children was a strategic investment, migrant children were obliged to pay back parents' help. In the second study, random effects logistic regression (803 to 1154 parent-child dyads corresponding to 513 to 735 parents) showed that whether an elder coresided with a child depended on elders' previous exchange with that child and elders' exchanges with the other siblings of that child. In the third study, analyses based on cross-lagged effects model (1281 parents) indicated that depressive symptoms were usually reduced by assistance from daughters-in-law, and increased sometimes when such support was from sons. These relationships held most strongly when mothers coresided with their daughters-in-law. This research suggested that the benefits of intergenerational support were conditional on culturally prescribed expectations.

Taken together, this dissertation demonstrated that the migration of adult children had substantial influence on the intergenerational transfer behaviors, the living arrangements of elders, and the effects of intergenerational transfers on elders' psychological well-being.

Advisor: Silverstein, Merril
Committee members: Crimmins, Eileen,  Chi, Iris