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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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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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  9. Dwayne Benjamin & Loren Brandt, 2000. "Property Rights, Labor Markets, and Efficiency in a Transition Economy: The Case of Rural China," Working Papers benjamin-00-02, University of Toronto, Department of Economics.
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  18. 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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