Data And Descriptive Evidence


China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Study (CHARLS) 2011 baseline survey is a na­tionally representative survey of the middle-aged and elderly population, as well as their spouses, across 150 counties in 28 provinces across China. Within each household in China, one person was randomly chosen to be the main respondent, after which their spouse was automatically included. Based on this sampling procedure, 1 or 2 individuals in each household were interviewed depend­ing on the marital status of the main respondent. The total sample size was 10,257 households and 17,708 individuals.

The CHARLS main questionnaire in the 2011 survey consists of 7 modules; those mod­ules covered demographics, family background, socioeconomic status, health status (including physical and psychological health), and environment (community questionnaire and county-level questionnaire). The data for this survey was collected using face-to-face, computer-aided personal interviews (CAPI).

In the family module of this 2011 survey, private transfer is defined as the incidence and magnitude of transfer between the household and non-coresident children, as well as between the household and their non-coresident parents and parents-in-law. In terms of the upward transfer to parents or parents-in-law, CHARLS respondents were asked: ”In the past year, did you or your spouse receive any economic supports from your non-coresident parents/ parents-in-law?” and ”How much did you receive from your non-coresident parents / parents-in-law in the past year?” They were instructed to include regular and non-regular monetary support and in-kind support. They were also asked about any economic supports given to their non-coresident parents/ parents- in-law. The same set of questions was asked with regard to any downward transfer to their non­coresident children.

Due to the social norm of “sandwich” generations supporting both parents and parents-in- law, upward transfers with older generations include all the financial transfers with both parents and parents-in-law. In addition, downward transfers include all financial transfers with any non­coresident children. In this paper, all regular and non-regular support – including both money and in-kind support – are calculated into the gross measures.

Variables Definition And Descriptive Evidence

In this paper, private transfer is defined as both the incidence and magnitude of transfer behavior between “sandwich” generations and non-coresident children as well as non-coresident parents/parents-in-law. The key outcome variables of interest are defined as: (1) a binary variable indicating the incidence of the household receiving economic transfer, in addition to any cash and in-kind transfers from any of their non-coresident family members, including their children and parents/parents-in-law, or zero otherwise; (2) a continuous variable measuring the net amount of the overall transfers, which may include the summation of net transfers from households to their non-coresident children, as well as net transfers from households to their non-coresident parents and parents-in-law; and (3) a dichotomous variable representing whether the household is overall a net recipient, taking the value of 1 in the case of positive net transfer, and zero otherwise.

a list of transfer patterns between “sandwich” generations and other non-coresident generations, including their non-coresident children and parents/parents-in-law. As shown in this table, inter- generational transfers are prevalent.

From a certain perspective, upward transfers toward non-coresident parents/parents-in-law are widespread; indeed, 48 percent of the “sandwich” generations are themselves donors of these transfers. Only 5 percent of households receive economic resources from their elder parents/parents- in-law, which implies that these “sandwich” generations are substantially supporting their elderly parents/parents-in-law. This is a strong indication of the filial piety that is so predominant in China.

Conversely, these “sandwich” generations have financial relationships with their non-coresident children. About 33 percent of the households receive private transfers from their children, while 15 percent of the households give cash or in-kind transfers to their adult children.

In table 10, the average net amount of transfers reveals a great deal about the overall flow of economic resources between generations. The upward net amount toward parents/parents-in-law show distinctive transfer patterns from a downward net amount toward their children. On average, “sandwich” generations give a higher amount of transfers toward their elderly parents/parents-in- law. However, such generations mainly receive a positive net amount from their children. This is distinct from patterns in the US, where households dominantly transfer resources to the adult children. Indeed, combining the two-sided transfer income flows reveals a more complete picture of the reality that Chinese households are facing. Overall, they are donors in the family support network, as their overall net transfers are negative on average.

In line with previous studies on private transfer, several variables reflecting households’ de­mographic and socio-economic characteristics are specified. For instance, marital status is divided into two distinct groups: Married and Single (the latter of which includes divorced, widowed, separated, or never married). Education attainment is classified into either Middle-school degree and above, or lower education. Household income includes the pooled income of the main re­spondent and his/her spouse’s income. Adl, which indicates if any of the main respondents and his/her spouses has functional difficulties when undergoing everyday activities, is used as a proxy for health measure.