Does Children's Education Matter for Parents’ Health and Cognition in Old Age? Evidence from China

90 Pages Posted: 16 Feb 2018

See all articles by Mingming Ma

Mingming Ma

University of Southern California

Date Written: November 7, 2017


Intergenerational transmission of human capital from parents to offspring has been widely documented. However, whether there are also upward spillovers from children to parents remains understudied. This paper uses data from the China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Study to estimate the causal impact of educational attainments of the highest educated adult child on various health and cognition outcomes of older adults. Identification is achieved by using the exposure of adult children to the compulsory education reform around 1986 in China and its interaction with enforcement intensity as instruments for children’s years of schooling. IV estimation results using the baseline survey data demonstrate that increasing years of education of adult children lead to higher level of cognitive functions of older adults. Parents with better educated children also have higher subjective survival expectations, improved lung function and greater body weight. Dynamic model results for the follow-up sample indicate positive and significant incremental effects of children’s education on cognitive abilities of older adults when baseline cognition is controlled for. Further evidence suggests that adult children’s education might shape parental health in old age by providing social support, affecting parental access to resources as well as influencing parental labor supply and psychological well-being.

Keywords: CHARLS, Education, Health, Cognition, Upward spillover

JEL Classification: I10, I26

Suggested Citation

Ma, Mingming, Does Children's Education Matter for Parents’ Health and Cognition in Old Age? Evidence from China (November 7, 2017). Available at SSRN: or

Mingming Ma (Contact Author)

University of Southern California ( email )

2250 Alcazar Street
Los Angeles, CA 90089
United States

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