Intergenerational Transfers between Older People and Their Migrant Children in Rural China: Strategic Investments, Strategic Returns

Merril Silverstein, University of Southern California
Zhen Cong, University of Southern California
Shuzhuo Li, Xi'an Jiaotong University

This investigation studied how older parents and their adult children in rural China strategically engaged in reciprocal transfers with each other. We asked whether downstream investments by parents enhance the ability of children to migrate and accumulate resources that could then be used to make upstream transfers to parents. Data derived from 1,180 parents aged 60+ who participated in 2001 and 2003 surveys of older people in rural Anhui Province, China. Parents reported about time and money transfers with 4,652 adult children. Random effects models revealed that older parents enabled their children to migrate by offering them childcare and financial support. Migrant children--particularly sons--reciprocated for their parents’ earlier economic contributions by providing them with greater upstream financial transfers and farm labor. Migrants and non-migrants reciprocated childcare equally. Results support a mutual-aid model of the rural Chinese family in which intergenerational transfers are reciprocal and multiple family needs are met.

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Presented in Session 15: Adult Children's Migration and the Wellbeing of Older Parents in International Perspective