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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 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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File URL: http://www.wdi.umich.edu/files/Publications/WorkingPapers/wp579.pdf
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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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  11. Mark B. McClellan, 1998. "Health Events, Health Insurance, and Labor Supply: Evidence from the Health and Retirement Survey," NBER Chapters, in: Frontiers in the Economics of Aging, pages 301-350 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  17. Cem Mete & T. Paul Schultz, 2002. "Health and Labor Force Participation of the Elderly in Taiwan," Working Papers 846, Economic Growth Center, Yale University.
  18. 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.
  19. Dwayne Benjamin & Loren Brandt & Scott Rozelle, 1998. "Aging, Well-Being, And Social Security In Rural North China," Working Papers benjamin-98-01, University of Toronto, Department of Economics.
  20. Laszlo, Sonia, 2008. "Education, Labor Supply, and Market Development in Rural Peru," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 36(11), pages 2421-2439, November.
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  23. John Bound, 1991. "Self-Reported Versus Objective Measures of Health in Retirement Models," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 26(1), pages 106-138.
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