Household Structure and Education Outcome in China
Household Structure and Education Outcome inChina
Household Structure and Education Outcome inChina
This paper focuses on the effects of singleparenting on a child’s educational outcomes. It also explores theeffects of the coresidential grandparents in different familyarrangements within the Chinese setup. The introduction providesbackground information that will enhance readers’ understanding offamily structures in China. The introductory paragraph is adescription of how the study is of importance to the field ofeconomics.
1.0The Economic Significance of Studying Family Structure and Educationof China
Human capital is an important source ofeconomic growth. The development of human skills through trainingleads to economic expansion (Denison, 1962 Lucas, 1988 Romer, 1986Schultz, 1961). Just like physical capital, human capital improvesthe efficiency of a nation to distribute resources for the purpose ofproduction. It is from the sale of the produced goods that a countrygets the power for economic growth. Despite the importance of humancapital, Chinese economy heavily relies on investment in physicalcapital, which represents roughly 30% of their total GDP. Thespending on human capital accounts for 2.5% only, which is belowaverage.
Human capital has not only been discussed atthe macro-levels of economic growth of a country, but it also hasbeen widely studied at the micro-levels. The studies on human capitalhave largely been based on individuals’ scope of education.Existing studies have identified a strong correlation between one’seducational level and his or her possible future incomes (Ozturk,2001). Furthermore, a handful of researches indicate that lessintergenerational mobility may be associated with a higher level ofeconomic inequality (Corak 2013). As such, education is anindispensable factor in the study of both individual and nationaldevelopment.
A simple way to study the determinant ofeducation is known as education production function. It is acost-benefit analysis of investment in an educational institution(Brown, 2006). Indeed, the quality of learning experience in schoolshould be closely related to educational outcome. However, Coleman, aprominent scholar of race and education, has concluded that familysettings are more influential in one’s educational achievement. Theeffect is highly pronounced in the early stages of schooling (Colemanet al. 1966).
As noted, the effects of family environment aredetermining factors of one’s educational attainment, a primarycomponent of human capital. This study is particularly concerned withthe effect of the Chinese family involvement and how it influencesthe value on education (Chu, Furukawa, Zhu, 2016).
The Global Trend of Single Parenthood
Some of the most critical questions that canhelp one to understand the topic include is growing up in a singleparent family always detrimental to children’s academicdevelopment? What are the potential mediating factors that canalleviate the effect of single-parenthood? Accordingly, the studydefines two-parent families as those in which both parents aremarried and are living in the same household unit. We consider singleparenting as a situation where one individual carries the fullresponsibility of raising a child. Recently, the family structure hasbeen changing rapidly especially in developed countries. Marriage andfertility rates have declined drastically while single parenthood hasrisen dramatically (Xu et al., 2013). For instance, according torecent projections, almost 60 percent of American children wereexpected to spend their childhood with only one of the parents (Xu etal., 2013). As the number of single-parent families keeps on growing,an intriguing question that has been raised is whether we are usingunsuitable methods when studying the effect of single parenthood. Infact, existing scholarly articles have attempted to explore howdifferent forms of family structure can influence the development ofchildren (Chan&Boliver 2013). Some of the results have providedconflicting answers to the question. Thus, in order to implement aneffective social regime, it is essential to clarify the relationshipbetween family arrangements and the well-being of children,especially their academic achievements. Through this, it will bepossible to bring a lasting impact in the future of the young ones asfar as education is concerned.
Figure 2Percentage Comparisons of Single-Parent Households across Nations
Existing studies have confirmed that singleparenthood often results in decline in resources as the soleindividual struggles to support the family. This in turn lowersthe quality of lives of the affected children.Academic performances can also be influenced by the fact thatsingle-parent families often have fewer sources of funding (Ren etal., 2016). One study finds that single-parent families haverelatively low household income and increased poverty levels thanintact families (Xu et al., 2013). With insufficient financialresources, single-parents are usually disadvantaged because they findit challenging to provide the child with quality education.
Single parenting, as Wen et al. (2012) pointsout, is also attributed to low parental involvement. According to Xuet al. (2013), single-parenting is typically harmful to children’semotional well-being because they lack the much needed care.Moreover, it is a challenge for single parents who engage in otherworks to monitor their children’s schooling and promote theirlearning. Parental absence or divorce causes emotional distress sinceit can discourage children’s aspiration towards academicachievement (Meng et al., 2015).
As such, a lot of studies from the Westernworld have shown that growing up as a child or under the care of oneparent has negative correlation with the child’s academicperformances and emotional well-being(Amato & Boyd, 20013 Ginther&Pollak, 2004 McLanahan & Percheski, 2008). In addition, a numberof existing studies from Asian countries including South Korea,Philippines, and Thailand have also reached similar conclusions.Nonetheless, they have found that the effect is not as significant asit is in Western nations (Han, Huang, & Garfinkel, 2003). Somestudies have speculated that reduced widowhood, extensive familynetworks, and more supportive government welfare policy systems inhave acted to moderate the effects in Asia. However, very few studieshave provided the mechanism through which single-parenthood mayaffect child’s educational achievements in Asian countries. Forexample, China has not been covered yet in greater details because ofthe difficulty in obtaining reliable sets of data.
Single Parenthood in China
A significant amount of literature has exploredthe effect of family structure on child’s well-being, especiallyfor the developed countries. However, such studies have been limitedin China, a nation that is now considered as one of the mosteconomically advanced countries in the world. Being the largestcountry in the globe, China’s economic reform and urbanization havebrought a tremendous improvement in living standards and numerouschanges in social structure. In China, similar to other developedcountries, the rising divorce rates and the number of random familieshave been considered as some of the most alarming social phenomena(Han, Huang, & Garfinkel, 2003).The scarce knowledge in the effect of single parenthood in China ismainly because not so many instances of economic failures have beenattributed to family structures. However, it is essential to obtain aclearer relationship between economy and family structures to preventfuture potential financial losses in China. The section has providedbackground information on the topic including its domestic policiesand customs (Li,2013). The next section describeshow the Chinese single family structures may influence other relatedfactors in the future.
Lower Divorce Rates and Single Parenthood
China, along with other East Asian countries,is unique not only in terms of low prevalence of single parenthoodbut also in the causes ofthe phenomenon. When considering only single-parent families, most ofthe cases result from separations (69.56%), spouse death (24.36%) anddivorce (6.98%) (Han, Huang, & Garfinkel, 2003). The descriptionof the statistics does not specify the probable conditions that leadto the divorce cases. However, it is possible that they are rampartin households with migrant parent workers where poverty is moremanifest. Similar ratios of divorce also result from cases where anindividual has perceived fear of being widowed. Unlike other westerncountries such as the United States, where the proportion of divorcedand single mothers are common, China has an unusually small number ofsingle-parents who have tried marriage life. According to 2014statistics in the U.K. and the U.S., only 4% of single mothersresulted from spouse death while more than 40% were totallyunmarried. In addition, around 50% of single mothers resulted fromdivorce (Bradshaw & Finch, 2014).
Then why does China have almost no records ofunmarried parents? A recent article from The Economist mentions thatthe stringent family planning system of the Chinese government hasled to lower prevalence of single mothers. One of their policiesstates that giving birth in China requires valid reproduction permitgranted by family-planning authorities. Unfortunately, it is alwaysimpossible to get the tickets unless the couple is married. Violatorshave to pay heavy fines amounts which can be equivalent to the totalincomes earned over several years. For example, in 2013, women whohad violated the rule were fined around RMB 80,000, which was roughly$13,000 in USD (Kim et al. 2004). However, obtaining birth tickets isnot the only hurdle that Chinese parents have to get through. Theyalso have to register their children using official birth tickets,which are never easy to get in China. The registration process isonly done to get an identity paper for a child. However, China hasannounced to end its one-child policy and but the number will berestricted to a maximum of two children per family (Kim et al. 2004).
China is such a unique country even among otherneighboring Asian countries in terms of its restricted freedom ingiving birth and the significantly lower divorce rate (Kim et al.2004). For instance, the social survey held in 2011 in South Korea, aneighboring country of China, showed that over 30% of thesingle-parent families are divorced households (Kim et al. 2004).However, this number is significantly lower in China, as divorcedsingle-parent households only accounts for under 10%. Nevertheless,it is important to note that the proportion of divorced householdsamong one-parent families is continually rising but its percentage isstill behind other factors.
As far as the structural feature is concerned,single parents are still a minority in China. “The thesis ofillusory correlation” claims that people tend to display prejudicedattitudes toward the minority group (Kim et al. 2004). Further, ‘thethesis of spiral of silence’ supports the idea that the minoritygroups do not usually speak up for themselves, which worsens thesocial bias against them (Kim et al. 2004). Above all, Chinesepopulations show curiosity for the affairs of such groups, whichfurther threatens the social well-being of single-parent families.Based on these theories, the experiences of single-parenthood may beworsened in the future Chinese society.
1.2.2 The Large Number of Migrant Parents
The inclusion of the coercive family planningsystem has limited the number children per household. As such,various Chinese policies have led to atype of single-parent householdsthat is greatly differs from that of other countries. As discussed inthe previous sections, single parenthood that results from premaritalsex is not a major issue in China (Li,2013). Many citizens fear beinginvolved because it is as a punishable offense.
Another unique aspect of Chinese single-parentfamily triggered by the government policy is the high number ofmigrant parents. Labor migration is a special characteristic ofChinese society, in which the number of job opportunities in urbanregions is significantly higher than that in rural domains. However,it is common that entire family members face difficulties moving intothe cities due to the infamous HukouSystem in China. Ideally, the systemrequires that one must possess a local passport for him or her tolegally dwell in a city. The Policy is primarily designed to controlthe urban populations (Meng et al., 2015). As a result, a largeproportion of parents in China who were once in married relationshipsare currently unable to live with their partners because of jobseeking. Most of them are mothers who take their kids to the cityalong with them. Interestingly, this does not make the situation anybetter, because they still cannot formally enroll their children inregular schools (Wu et al., 2015).
Despite the dire need for help, these singleparents continue to suffer due to the lack of government support.Conversely, in America, for instance, organizations such as PlannedParenthood offer options for child bearing for the single parents.Single parent families in China often face difficulties obtainingappropriate housing and offering good learning experiences for theirchildren (Guo, 2012). Even in such deprived conditions, the Chinesegovernment policy has not put any efforts in supporting singleparents. This happens because the administration does not allowdonations from social organizations, individuals, and enterprises (Xuet al., 2013).
While China is one of the most influentialcountries across the world, the level of attention to familywell-being is far behind other developed nations. Even though Chinais still undergoing social transitions towards modernization, singleparents in China are rendered helpless and embarrassed due to theconservative values that are still deeply embedded in the Chinesesociety and its unsupportive government systems. This discrepancyfurther suggests a need for a more active government intervention onways of supporting the single parent households in China.
1.2.3 The Prevalence of Multi-GenerationHouseholds
In most non-Asian countries, mostmultigenerational family structures are reported in the single-parentfamilies (Zhang, 2016). However, unlike other nations, it is morecommon in China for grandparents to assist in the upbringing ofchildren on a full-time basis. This takes place even in familieswhere both parents are present. Therefore, it is a show that relyingon the Western analysis may not be relevant for examininggrandparents’ involvement in the Chinese setup.
In modern China, industrialization andurbanization has largely contributed to a decline in residence(Zhang, 2016). However, the Chinese Census in 2012 demonstrated thatwhile the dominant family structure in modern China is nuclearhousehold, the majority of the elderly population (age 65+) stilllive with their children (Zeng and Wang 2013).
There are many factors that have contributed tothe prevalence of multi-generation households in China. These factorsinclude a rise in women’s employment and the rigorous form of birthplanning policy (Zhang, 2016). When the policy of liberating womenfrom housework was implemented, Chinese women’s participation beganto sore, being among the highest in the world (United Nations, 2012).However, because of the shortage of child-care facilities, householdswhere mothers are working often rely on grandparents to serve as analternative source of child care (Goh, Kuczynski 2010).
In addition to the increased participationrate of women in labor, the former birth planning program, widelyknown as the ‘one-child policy’ plays a substantial role in therise of multi-generation households in China. According to Zhang,(2016) ever since the implementation of the one-child policy in 1979,Chinese families have shifted to care giving than before. The onechild system enables every parent to pool resources so as to enablethe only child to have access to the best possible resources (Gob andKuczynski, 2010). Even if the Chinese government announced to end thepolicy in the late 2015, which allows families to have up to twochildren, the current Chinese family structure is stillrepresentative of the former system.
Then what is the main functionality of thegrandparent? Some studies show the caregiving by grandparents inChina has positive influences on the children (Falbo 1991 Goh 2009Silverstein, Cong and Li 2007). The young ones benefit in terms ofmental well-being. However, there is still a limited amount ofresearch that explores the role of the grandparents on children’seducation based on household conditions in China. Thus, this studymakes up for the literature gap by presenting statistics ofgrandparent’s availability with regard to the family structure andin-depth analysis of the intergenerational relationships.
Effect of Grandparent in Single Parent Families: Motives and Central Questions of the Study
Chinese single parent families are expected tostruggle due to the lack of public support and resources for thechild. Then can living with grandparent(s) be helpful for children’seducational attainments in single-parent families? Indeed, theancient ideology of ‘filial piety,’ which gave emphasis that theduty of children was to care for their parents, has now changed as itis the grandparents who benefit (Silverstein, Cong and Li 2006).Moreover, the emphasis on ‘familism’ in China gives positiveimpact to the single parents. The country is culturally afamily-centered society in which all everyone is accountable for thewell-being of the community as a whole. Thus, family members oftenoffer any form of supports to unfortunate members in the family(Pearson & Phillips 1994).
In China, the issue of grandparents caring forgrandchildren has become a common experience for many households.There are homes where parents, grandchildren, and grandparents sharethe same residences (Pebley and Rudkin, 1999). According to manystudies, the role of grandparents can vary from “uninvolved” to“occasional helpers.” At times, they can be regarded as“long-term surrogate parents.” (Hirshorn 1998). Whereas the ideaof grandparents caring for their grandchildren is common in China,research on this area has been greatly limited. Therefore, it isimportant to test how coresidential grandparents have impact on theeducation of their grandchildren. This should largely be centered onfamily settings that are considered resource-deficient.
Hence, this study ultimately seeks to answerthe following question: how does the family structure affecteducational outcomes of children in China? To provide an in-depthanswer to the question, this study breaks the question into threeparts:
Do students raised by both biological parents and those brought up by one biological parent perform differently on the verbal test?
To what extent does the presence of grandparent living in the household affect the test scores of their grandchildren?
Through what channel do grandparents benefit the academic performance of the child?
This study hypothesizes that grandparents maymitigate the negative effects of single-parenting by offeringsupplementary parental care the grandchildren. This study uses CFPSChinese Survey data and two separate sets of regression analysispartially modeled by Chen’s study of grandparent effect in Taiwan.In addition, it seeks to explore the effect of grandparent throughcontextualizing causal framework applied in Song’s study onmulti-generational effect in America. The study utilizes separatesets of single-parent families and shows connection between the tworegression models. It purposes to fill the gap of the existingliterature primarily lacking of analysis on Chinese data.
The rest of the paper is organized as follows.Section II provides literature review relevant to the study, SectionIII describes the data, Section IV provides the theoretical frameworkused for the analysis on grandparent effect and the complete designof our regression equations. Then, Section V and VI explain theresults and suggest potential improvements and policy provisions,followed by a brief concluding remark.
The section of literature has focused on threearticles that have been the basis for the analysis. Park providescross-national analysis on the relationship between single-parentfamilies and child’s educational outcomes. On the other hand, bothChen and Song explore the potential effects of grandparents onchildren’s education outcomes. Even though Park’s study coversthe effect of single-parenthood in multiple nations, China is missingfrom his analysis on Asian countries. To fill the gap present inPark’s work, this study addresses the effect of single-parenthoodin China on child’s educational outcomes. Moreover, the study takesan additional step to differentiate the effect of different types ofsingle parent households. The study also aims to validate Park’sspeculation on the positive effects of extended family structures.This is achieved by utilizing regression methodologies andtheoretical frameworks to explain the impacts of grandparents.
Li, H.(2013). Economic transition and returns to education inChina.Economicsof education review, 22(3),317-328.
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