MPIDR Working Paper

Older parents enjoy better filial piety and care from daughters than sons in China

Zeng, Y., George, L., Sereny, M., Gu, D., Vaupel, J. W.
MPIDR Working Paper WP-2015-012, 34 pages.
Rostock, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (December 2015)
Open Access


This study based on analyzing the unique datasets of Chinese Longitudinal Healthy Longevity Survey clearly demonstrate that, compared to having son(s), having daughter(s) is beneficial at older ages, with regards to enjoying greater filial piety from and better relationships with children and satisfaction with care provided by children. The daughter-advantages of enjoying greater filial piety from and better relationships with children are more profound among oldest-old aged 80+ compared to young-old aged 65-79, and surprisingly more profound in rural areas compared to urban areas, while son-preference is much more prevalent among rural residents. We also discuss why the rigorous fertility policy until October 2015 and less-developed pension system in rural areas substantially contribute to the sustentation of the traditional son-preference which resulted in high sex ratio at birth (SRB) when fertility is low. We recommend China to take integrative policy actions of informing the public that having daughter(s) is beneficial for old age care, developing rural pension system and implementing the most recently announced universal two-child policy as soon as possible. We believe that these policy actions would help China to change the traditional son-preference, bringing down the high SRB, and enable more future elderly parents to enjoy their life including better care provided by daughters.

Keywords: China, daughters, parents, sons
The Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock is one of the leading demographic research centers in the world. It's part of the Max Planck Society, the internationally renowned German research society.