Abstract: Benefits of Multidimensional Measures of Child Well Being in China (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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Benefits of Multidimensional Measures of Child Well Being in China

Thursday, January 21, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Shirley Gatenio Gabel, PhD, Professor, Fordham University
Yiwei Zhang, PhD, Doctoral Student, Fordham University, New York, NY
Background: Child well-being in China today is measured through proxy measures of household need, specifically defining child well-being by measuring child poverty (children living in income-poor households) or by counting children who reside in households receiving dibao assistance. Dibao is the Minimum Living Standard Guarantee Scheme for low-income families primarily living in urban areas and some rural areas. Using dibao status to identify poor children is problematic because it omits those who are poor but may be ineligible for assistance since eligibility for dibao is based on the hukuo system. Hukuo is the household registration system in China. An urban dweller is only eligible for assistance if they continue to live in the urban area where they are registered to live. Migrant workers and their children coming from rural areas are excluded from the dibao scheme. Understanding poverty from an income or assistance alone also fails to identify other factors that contribute to children’s well-being such as safety, education, health services, information, social supports and housing. Nor does it reveal disparities among populations. This paper considers the benefits of introducing multidimensional measures of child well-being in China and the availability of data sources to construct a multidimensional measure of child well-being in China. The paper explores the benefits of positive indicators and multiple dimensions in formulating policy.

Methods: A review of international multidimensional child well-being indices we reviewed as well as efforts to date by the Chinese government, researchers, and non-governmental and intergovernmental organizations to develop comprehensive multidimensional measures of child well-being in China. The are indicators that have data available in China and are culturally appropriate. We summarize the availability of potential data for indicators in China for each dimension and the sources.

Results: Data sources and availability for the various domains of a multidimensional index is presented and the potential interactions of the domains are considered. Thirty-four indicators were identified for six dimensions: economic well-being, physical health, emotional health and social relationships, education, safety and risk behaviors, and living environment including the source and frequency of data collection for each indicator. Data sources include administrative data (e.g., NPA Monitoring Statistics, China Statistical Yearbook, and Educational Statistics Yearbook of China) and nationwide sampled survey (e.g., CFPS and CNHSS). Both positive and negative indicators are considered in order to promote a holistic and comprehensive assessment of child well-being. Findings show that there is sufficient data to develop a multidimensional child well-being index.

Conclusion and Implications: In conclusion, the development of a multidimensional index to measure child well-being is shown to benefit children in China. The paper stops short of offering a specific index because measures of well-being should be contextualized by culture and informed by those who are being measured. Multi-dimensional measures deepen and broaden our understanding of child well-being and inform us of areas of neglect.