The Society for Social Work and Research

2014 Annual Conference

January 15-19, 2014 I Grand Hyatt San Antonio I San Antonio, TX

The Well-Being Cost of China's Transition

Friday, January 17, 2014: 11:30 AM
HBG Convention Center, Room 001A River Level (San Antonio, TX)
* noted as presenting author
Jiaan Zhang, PhD, Assistant Professor, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China
Background and Purpose:Evidence from transitional post-socialist countries in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union suggests that economic ownership restructuring during the market transition has the negative effect on individual’s subjective well-being, which largely due to the sudden inability to adapt to the unpredictable, uncertain, unsecure life the transition created. China has undergone massive economic ownership restructuring during its transitions from a planned to market economy since 1978. Although there have been lively debates about the impacts of China’s market transition on individual’s live in the literature, it is still unclear how Chinese older people feel in the context of China’s ever-changing market transition. On the one hand, Chinese older people have spent most of their lives under socialism and may be unprepared for the new, unpredictable, uncertain, and competitive market-oriented society. They may have great difficulties to adjust to the change, and their well-being is compromised as a result. On the other hand, marketization may have brought hope, optimism as well as improvement in nutrition, living conditions and health care that are critical to maintain individual's well-being in old age. This study aims to examine the effect of economic ownership restructuring on older people’s subjective well-being.

Methods:Data for this study came from the 2008 Chinese Longitudinal Healthy Longevity Survey consisted of 16,199 older adults (average age: 87) from 22 provinces across China and the 2008 China Provincial Statistical Yearbook. The dependent variable “subjective well-being” was measured by self-reported quality of life on a five point ordinal scale from “1=very bad” to “5=very good”. The key independent variable “economic ownership restructuring” was measured by proportion of non-state-owned sector employees. Random intercept multilevel ordered logistic regression models were employed for this study.

Results:Results show that economic ownership restructuring is negatively associated with older adults’ self reported quality of life after adjusting for individual’s socio-demographic variables and health status, indicating that living in a more marketized province decreases cumulative odds of better life quality.

Conclusions and Implications: The study has found a detrimental effect of economic ownership restructuring on older people’s subjective well-being. Living in the context of China’s ever-changing market transition, older people who have spent most of their lives under socialism may find difficult to cope with the post-socialism social environment and may even be nostalgic for the pre-reform days. Study thus suggests that policies should be made to prevent older Chinese becoming frustrated achievers.