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Anderson, Barbara A., Cheong-Seok Kim, John H. Romani, John Traphagan, and Jinyun Liu. "Living Arrangements and Mortality Rates Risks of the Urban Elderly in Yunnan Province, China, 1995." PSC Research Report No. 99-435. March 1999.
A concern in China is that marketization of the economy and decreases in state-subsidized housing may lead to declines in co-residence of the elderly with their adult children. Co-residence has been thought to contribute substantially to the well-being of the elderly, a major dimension of which is survival. Few studies, however, have examined factors related to co-residence, well-being, and survival.
We use micro-data from the 1995 Mid-Censal Survey for elderly in urban parts of Yunnan Province, China to examine this question. These data contain information about all household members as well as about household members who died in the previous year. This permits examination of factors related to co-residence and the relation of co-residence to mortality of the elderly.
The main findings and conclusions of this paper are:
Co-residence of the elderly with their married children, especially with married sons, is an expression of the Confucian ideal of filial piety. Many have assumed that in China all those who are able to will live with the family of a married child. This assumption is not supported by data from urban Yunnan, in which only half of those age 60-64 live with younger married relatives. Whether and when the elderly co-reside with married children is a decision rather than a cultural norm to which people adhere whenever possible.
When an elderly person becomes co-resident depends on his or her marital status. Widowhood by itself seems to be a substantial reason for co-residence. Levels of co-residence of the married are lower at all ages than of the widowed. Co-residence of the married seems to be precipitated by the need for help on the part of the elderly married couple.
For the elderly as a whole, co-residence has an insignificant relation to mortality. Among the widowed, co-residence is related to substantially lower chances of mortality. Among the currently married, co-residence is related to substantially higher chances of mortality, probably because risk factors for mortality are strongly related to selection into co-residence among those who are currently married.
If co-residence is the result of a decision on the part of the elderly and their married children, researchers need to be cautious in interpreting the effects of co-residence on mortality and other life events. If the decision to co-reside differs for the married and the widowed, then seeming effects of co-residence on life events will be affected by differences in selection into co-residence for the married and the widowed.