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Co-residence, Life-Cycle Savings and Inter-generational Support in Urban China

Listed author(s):
  • Mark Rosenzweig
  • Junsen Zhang

We use unique data characterizing individual savings for twins and non-twins in urban China to examine why the savings rates of the young are elevated relative to the middle-aged, despite rising individual life-cycle incomes. We show that inter-generational co-residence masks the true life-cycle patterns of individual savings in standard Chinese household data sets, which are aggregated at the household level. Moreover, we show that to understand life-cycle savings behavior it is necessary to take into account inter-generational co-residence, an important phenomenon in China and in many developing countries. To test a model that describes joint life-cycle savings and co-residence decisions by two generations, we use a variety of standard twins methods. The estimates provide support for the model, including that individuals born into larger families provide less financial support to parents and are more likely to co-reside with parents when young, but do not have different savings rates. We also found that inter-generational co-residence is lower the higher the incomes of the young but higher when the parents have higher incomes and that inter-generational co-residence, net of income, is associated with higher savings for the young but not higher savings for the old. Our results highlight the importance of high housing costs and the prevalence of inter-generational shared housing as key reasons for the higher savings rates for the urban young in China, but also indicate that in urban China neither old-age support by the young nor the one-child policy are major factors.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w20057.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 20057.

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Date of creation: Apr 2014
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:20057
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  1. Franco Modigliani & Shi Larry Cao, 2004. "The Chinese Saving Puzzle and the Life-Cycle Hypothesis," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 42(1), pages 145-170, March.
  2. Costa, Dora L, 1997. "Displacing the Family: Union Army Pensions and Elderly Living Arrangements," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 105(6), pages 1269-1292, December.
  3. Marcos D. Chamon & Eswar S. Prasad, 2010. "Why Are Saving Rates of Urban Households in China Rising?," American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 2(1), pages 93-130, January.
  4. Rosenzweig, Mark R. & Zhang, Junsen, 2013. "Economic growth, comparative advantage, and gender differences in schooling outcomes: Evidence from the birthweight differences of Chinese twins," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 104(C), pages 245-260.
  5. Wei Huang & Xiaoyan Lei & Yaohui Zhao, 2016. "One-Child Policy and the Rise of Man-Made Twins," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 98(3), pages 467-476, July.
  6. Hongbin Li & Mark Rosenzweig & Junsen Zhang, 2010. "Altruism, Favoritism, and Guilt in the Allocation of Family Resources: Sophie's Choice in Mao's Mass Send-Down Movement," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 118(1), pages 1-38, 02.
  7. Li, Hongbin & Liu, Pak Wai & Zhang, Junsen, 2012. "Estimating returns to education using twins in urban China," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 97(2), pages 494-504.
  8. Han, Jun & Liu, Runjuan & Zhang, Junsen, 2012. "Globalization and wage inequality: Evidence from urban China," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 87(2), pages 288-297.
  9. Zhang, Junsen & Zhao, Yaohui & Park, Albert & Song, Xiaoqing, 2005. "Economic returns to schooling in urban China, 1988 to 2001," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 33(4), pages 730-752, December.
  10. Hongbin Li & PakWai Liu & Junsen Zhang & Ning Ma, 2007. "Economic Returns to Communist Party Membership: Evidence From Urban Chinese Twins," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 117(523), pages 1504-1520, October.
  11. Choukhmane, Taha & Coeurdacier, Nicolas & Jin, Keyu, 2013. "The One-Child Policy and Household Savings," CEPR Discussion Papers 9688, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  12. Shing-Yi Wang, 2011. "State Misallocation and Housing Prices: Theory and Evidence from China," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(5), pages 2081-2107, August.
  13. Bingqin Li & Hyun Bang Shin, 2013. "Intergenerational Housing Support Between Retired Old Parents and their Children in Urban China," Urban Studies, Urban Studies Journal Limited, vol. 50(16), pages 3225-3242, December.
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