Living Arrangements of the Elderly in China

Evidence from the CHARLS National Baseline

Published in: China Economic Journal, v. 8, no. 3, 2015, p. 191-214

Posted on RAND.org on July 21, 2016

by Xiaoyan Lei, John Strauss, Tian Meng, Yaohui Zhao

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Declining fertility in China has raised concerns about elderly support, especially when public support is inadequate. Using rich information from the nationally representative China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Study (CHARLS) baseline survey, we describe the patterns of current living arrangements of the Chinese elderly and investigate their determinants and correlation with intergenerational transfers. We find that roughly 41% of Chinese aged 60 and over live with an adult child; living with a male adult child being strongly preferred. However another 34% have an adult child living in the same immediate neighborhood and 14% in the same county; only 5% have an adult child with none of them living in the same county. At the same time, a large fraction of the elderly, 45% in our sample, live alone or with only a spouse. In general, women, those from western provinces, and those from rural areas are more likely to live with or close to their adult children than their corresponding counterparts, but different types of intergenerational transfers play a supplementary role in the unequal distribution of living arrangements. Among non-co-resident children, those living close by visit their parents more frequently and have more communications by other means. In contrast, children who live farther away are more likely to send financial and in-kind transfers and send larger amounts.

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