Abstract: Multigenerational Living Arrangements and Older Adults' Subjective Well-Being in China (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

Multigenerational Living Arrangements and Older Adults' Subjective Well-Being in China

Thursday, January 16, 2020
Marquis BR Salon 10, ML 2 (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
* noted as presenting author
Wen-Jui Han, PhD, Professor and Director of Ph.D. Program, New York University, New York, NY
Cliff Whetung, MSW, PhD Student, New York University, New york, NY
Background and Purpose: We investigated the relationship between multi-generational household arrangements and Chinese older adults’ subjective well-being, paying attention to contextual factors (e.g., education, income). As internal rural to urban migratory patterns and housing costs increase, family networks become more dispersed, and anti-rural biases in China’s household registration program (hukou) raise important challenges for older adults in China. In addition, family resources shaped by living arrangements, education and income are becoming evermore important particularly when government support measures are not in place. In light of these trends, multigenerational household arrangements that used to provide essential support to elders in China have critical implications to the elders’ well-being in China as well as to the development of effective policy and clinical interventions in light of these trends.


Methods: We conducted multivariate regression analysis using the WHO Study on Global Ageing and Adult Health (SAGE) of respondents living in China over the age of 50 (n=13,367) in 2007. Data were collected on socio-demographic backgrounds, work histories, household membership, health, social cohesion, and subjective well-being. The majority of our sample was born in a rural region (51% rural hukou status), had completed less than six years of formal education (44%), was married (83%), and had an average of 2.75 people in their household. Using household roster, we categorized living arrangement into six groups: living with spouse only (n =5,481), living with just adult children (two generation, n =3,379), living with adult children and grandchildren (three generation, n = 1,868), living with just grandchildren (skipped-generation, n =522), living alone (n =1,594), and all other household arrangements (n =523). We defined subjective well-being using the following measures: satisfaction with health, overall life quality, life satisfaction, and happiness. A rich set of sociodemographic characteristics (e.g., age, gender, education, income, social connection) were included in all analyses to address at least partially the selection bias.

Findings: Descriptive statistics indicate that two- and three-generational households tended to have more resources (e.g., higher family income), live in urban areas, and have more social connections than other arrangements. In contrast, those in skipped-generational households had fewer resources, were working and engaged more in risky health behaviors (drinking alcohol and smoking). Regression results suggest that two-generational living arrangements were significantly associated with lower subjective well-being than were those living with spouse only. In contrast, those living in three-generational living arrangements had significantly better subjective well-being than those in two-generational living arrangements. Interaction analysis further indicate that the lower subjective well-being found for those living in two-generation households were particularly true among those of low-income.


Conclusions and Implications: This study highlights important protective and risk factors associated with various multigenerational household arrangements for older adults in China and identifies not only that rural skipped-generation households as a vulnerable social subgroup in Chinese society in our data but also that elders in low-income two-generational households worth particular attention. The many permutations of multigenerational households in China appear to have diverse vulnerabilities that policy and clinical interventions must consider going forward.