September 2015

IZA DP No. 9343: Cultural and Ethnic Differences in the Transitions from Work to "Retirement" of Rural Elders in China's Minority Regions

Published in Chinese in 中国少数民族的差异性研究 (Research on the Differences among Chinese Minorities), edited by丁赛、李克强、别雍·古斯塔夫森、佐藤宏、瑞萨·汉斯姆斯等著 (edited by Ding Sai, Li Keqiang, Bjorn·Gustafsson, Sato Hiroshi, and Reza Hasmath. 社会科学文献出版社 (Social Sciences Academic Press: Beijing) December 2016.

This paper considers the work to "retirement" transitions of the rural elders in China who reside in seven regions with substantial minority populations. The data employed, those of the China Household Ethnicity Survey, are ideal for examining the effect of cultural differences on this key lifecycle event, the reduction of market-oriented work with age. Membership in particular ethnic minority groups is used to proxy the potential differences in the culture of aging and caregiving. We find that beyond education, the strongest predictors of labor force participation for China's rural elders are age, disability, widowhood, and ethnic minority status. The effects of ethnic minority group status on labor force participation are robust and the differences in participation among ethnic groups are sometimes large. It is thus misleading, in the analysis of the labor force participation of China's rural elders, to simply dichotomize ethnic minority and majority (Han) group membership. Further careful research is needed to help understand the differences in perceptions of aging among China's rural ethnic minority groups.