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Ceaseless Toil? Health and Labor Supply of the Elderly in Rural China

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  • Dwayne Benjamin

    ()

  • Loren Brandt

    ()

  • Jia-Zhueng Fan

    ()

Abstract

Deborah Davis-Friedmann (1991) described the “retirement” pattern of the Chinese elderly in the prereform era as “ceaseless toil”: lacking sufficient means of support, the elderly had to work their entire lives. In this paper we re-cast the metaphor of ceaseless toil in a labor supply model, where we highlight the role of age and deteriorating health. The empirical focus of our paper is (1) Documenting the labor supply patterns of elderly Chinese; and (2) Estimating the extent to which failing health drives retirement. We exploit the panel dimension of the 1991-93-97 waves of the China Health and Nutrition Survey, confronting a number of econometric issues, especially the possible contamination of age by cohort effects, and the measurement error of health. In the end, it appears that “ceaseless toil” is also an accurate depiction of elderly Chinese work patterns since economic reform, but failing health only plays a small observable role in explaining declining labor supply over the life-cycle.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan in its series William Davidson Institute Working Papers Series with number 2003-579.

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Length: 59 pages
Date of creation: 12 Jun 2003
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:wdi:papers:2003-579

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Keywords: retirement; health and labor supply; social security; China;

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References

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  1. Lumsdaine, Robin L. & Mitchell, Olivia S., 1999. "New developments in the economic analysis of retirement," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 49, pages 3261-3307 Elsevier.
  2. Loren Brandt & Dwayne Benjamin, 2002. "Property Rights, Labour Markets, and Efficiency in a Transition Economy: The Case of Rural China," William Davidson Institute Working Papers Series 518, William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Zhao, Zhong, 2007. "Earnings Instability and Earnings Inequality in Urban China: 1989–2006," IZA Discussion Papers 3270, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  2. Eric Edmonds & Kristin Mammen & Douglas L. Miller, 2004. "Rearranging the Family? Income Support and Elderly Living Arrangements in a Low Income Country," NBER Working Papers 10306, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. de Brauw, Alan, 2004. "Parents As Public Goods: Theory And Evidence From Rural China," 2004 Annual meeting, August 1-4, Denver, CO 20298, American Agricultural Economics Association (New Name 2008: Agricultural and Applied Economics Association).
  4. Giles, John & Wang, Dewen & Cai, Wei, 2011. "The labor supply and retirement behavior of China's older workers and elderly in comparative perspective," Policy Research Working Paper Series 5853, The World Bank.
  5. Ramon Casadesus-Masanell & Tarun Khanna, 2003. "Globalization and Trust: Theory and Evidence from Cooperatives," William Davidson Institute Working Papers Series wp592, William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan.
  6. Chamon, Marcos & Liu, Kai & Prasad, Eswar, 2013. "Income uncertainty and household savings in China," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 105(C), pages 164-177.
  7. de Carvalho Filho, Irineu Evangelista, 2008. "Old-age benefits and retirement decisions of rural elderly in Brazil," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 86(1), pages 129-146, April.
  8. Barrientos, Armando, 2012. "What is the Role of Social Pensions in Asia?," ADBI Working Papers 351, Asian Development Bank Institute.

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