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

  • Dwayne Benjamin
  • Loren Brandt
  • Jia-Zhueng Fan

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 dimens ion 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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Paper provided by University of Toronto, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers with number benjamin-03-01.

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Length: 57 pages
Date of creation: 12 Jun 2003
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:tor:tecipa:benjamin-03-01
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  19. John Bound & Michael Schoenbaum & Todd R. Stinebrickner & Timothy Waidmann, 1998. "The Dynamic Effects of Health on the Labor Force Transitions of Older Workers," NBER Working Papers 6777, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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