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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.

Suggested Citation

  • Dwayne Benjamin & Loren Brandt & Jia-Zhueng Fan, 2003. "Ceaseless Toil? Health and Labor Supply of the Elderly in Rural China," William Davidson Institute Working Papers Series 2003-579, William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan.
  • Handle: RePEc:wdi:papers:2003-579
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Eric V. Edmonds & Kristin Mammen & Douglas L. Miller, 2005. "Rearranging the Family?: Income Support and Elderly Living Arrangements in a Low-Income Country," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 40(1).
    2. Huang, Bihong & Lian, Yujun & Li, Wensu, 2016. "How far is Chinese left-behind parents' health left behind?," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 37(C), pages 15-26.
    3. 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.
    4. Ning, Manxiu & Gong, Jinquan & Zheng, Xuhui & Zhuang, Jun, 2016. "Does New Rural Pension Scheme decrease elderly labor supply? Evidence from CHARLS," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 41(C), pages 315-330.
    5. Giles, John T. & Wang, Dewen & Cai, Wei, 2011. "The Labor Supply and Retirement Behavior of China's Older Workers and Elderly in Comparative Perspective," IZA Discussion Papers 6088, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    6. Barrientos, Armando, 2012. "What is the Role of Social Pensions in Asia?," ADBI Working Papers 351, Asian Development Bank Institute.
    7. 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).
    8. Chen, Zeyuan & Bengtsson, Tommy & Helgertz, Jonas, 2015. "Labor Supply Responses to New Rural Social Pension Insurance in China: A Regression Discontinuity Approach," IZA Discussion Papers 9360, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    9. Rafael NOVELLA & Javier OLIVERA, 2014. "Mental retirement and non-contributory pensions for the elderly poor in Peru," Working Papers Department of Economics ces14.05, KU Leuven, Faculty of Economics and Business, Department of Economics.
    10. Yevgeniy Goryakin & Marc Suhrcke, 2017. "The impact of poor adult health on labor supply in the Russian Federation," The European Journal of Health Economics, Springer;Deutsche Gesellschaft für Gesundheitsökonomie (DGGÖ), vol. 18(3), pages 361-372, April.
    11. Armando Barrientos, 2011. "Participation and Earnings of Older People in Argentina: Nice Work if You Can Get It?," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 47(7), pages 1061-1079.
    12. Chen, Zeyuan & Bengtsson, Tommy & Helgertz, Jonas, 2015. "Labor Supply Responses to New Rural Pension Insurances in China: A Regression Discontinuity Approach," Lund Papers in Economic History 139, Lund University, Department of Economic History.
    13. Shu, Lei, 2017. "Essays on retirement income provision," Other publications TiSEM e5dd8c4e-03bf-4ec9-9651-b, Tilburg University, School of Economics and Management.
    14. Cheng, Lingguo & Liu, Hong & Zhang, Ye & Zhao, Zhong, 2016. "The Health Implications of Social Pensions: Evidence from China's New Rural Pension Scheme," IZA Discussion Papers 9621, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    15. Laura Romeu Gordo, 2011. "Compression of morbidity and the labour supply of older people," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 43(4), pages 503-513.
    16. 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.
    17. Zhao, Zhong, 2007. "Earnings Instability and Earnings Inequality in Urban China: 1989–2006," IZA Discussion Papers 3270, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    18. Zhong Zhao, 2010. "Earnings Instability and Earnings Inequality in Urban China: 1989–2006," Working Papers id:2783, eSocialSciences.
    19. 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.

    More about this item

    Keywords

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

    JEL classification:

    • J26 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Retirement; Retirement Policies
    • J14 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of the Elderly; Economics of the Handicapped; Non-Labor Market Discrimination
    • P36 - Economic Systems - - Socialist Institutions and Their Transitions - - - Consumer Economics; Health; Education and Training; Welfare, Income, Wealth, and Poverty

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