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Who will care for older people in China? Exploring the implications of gender imbalance at birth

Yoshihiko Kadoya (Junior Associate Professor, based at Graduate School of Economics, Nagoya University, Nagoya, Japan)
Ting Yin (Fellow, based at Research Institute of Economy, Trade & Industry, IAA, Tokyo, Japan)

Working with Older People

ISSN: 1366-3666

Article publication date: 3 June 2014




The purpose of this paper is to provide evidence about the possible cause and effect of the problematic gender imbalance at birth in China. Much of the literature on this issue presents discussions based on the traditional assumption that Chinese sons are more involved in taking care of parents than Chinese daughters are, and thus, that Chinese parents prefer sons. Yet, empirical evidence is lacking.


This paper verifies the assumption by using the “Preference Parameters Study in China 2011,” which conducted 652 face-to-face interviews with randomly selected individuals in six major Chinese cities.


This paper first presents empirical evidence that Chinese sons (and their wives) are more likely, compared to daughters (and their husbands), to be primary caregivers for parents. The paper also reports the finding that Chinese parents’ dependencies on their children would not necessarily decrease with the development of social security, although that may be the case when a child has a highly educated spouse.

Practical implications

The Chinese government needs to increase long-term care services for older people, especially since more women are being educated.


Although this study has data collection limitations, with data collected in only six major cities, the problematic nature of gender imbalance at birth and the lack of available empirical evidence demand that researchers begin to construct a better understanding of the causes of, and possible solutions to, this phenomenon. With that in mind, this paper contributes to that construction of knowledge and insight.



This research used micro data from the Preference Parameters Study of Osaka University's twenty-first century COE Program “Behavioral Macrodynamics Based on Surveys and Experiments” and its Global COE project “Human Behavior and Socioeconomic Dynamics.” The authors acknowledge the program/project's contributors: Yoshiro Tsutsui, Fumio Ohtake, and Shinsuke Ikeda. The authors thank Fumio Ohtake, Masaru Sasaki, Charles Yuji Horioka, Midori Wakabayashi, Wataru Kureishi, and the other seminar participants at the Osaka University, Japan.


Kadoya, Y. and Yin, T. (2014), "Who will care for older people in China? Exploring the implications of gender imbalance at birth", Working with Older People, Vol. 18 No. 2, pp. 97-105.



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