Family Life Course Transitions and Rural Household Economy During China's Market Reform


This article investigates the effect of family life course transitions on labor allocation strategies in rural Chinese households. We highlight three types of economic activity that involve reallocation of household labor oriented toward a more diversified, nonfarm rural economy: involvement in wage employment, household entrepreneurship, and/or multiple activities that span economic sectors. With the use of data from the China Health and Nutrition Survey (CHNS 1997, 2000, and 2004), our longitudinal analyses of rural household economic activity point to the significance of household demography, life course transitions, and local economic structures as factors facilitating household labor reallocation. First, as expected, a relatively youthful household structure is conducive to innovative economic behavior. Second, household entrances and exits are significant, but their impacts are not equal. Life events such as births, deaths, marriage, or leaving home for school or employment affect household economy in distinctive ways. Finally, the reallocations of household labor undertaken by households are shaped by local economic structures: in particular, the extent of village-level entrepreneurial activity, off-farm employment, and out-migration.