Offspring migration and nutritional status of left-behind older adults in rural China

Chang Liu, Tor Eriksson, Fujin Yi*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Improvements in nutritional status is a principal pathway to good health. This study examines the effect of migration of adult children on the nutrient intake of left-behind older adults in rural China. We use data from four waves (2004–2011) of the China Health and Nutrition Survey and utilize individual fixed effects methods to panel data. Results show that the migration of offspring is associated with significantly higher nutritional status of their left-behind parents, especially higher intake of proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins B1–B3, phosphorus, magnesium, iron, selenium, and copper. The intake of some of these nutrients is below recommended levels. The magnitude of the estimated effects vary between 4% and 24 %. Older adults who live with their grandchildren in rural households or have a low income benefit more from having adult child migrants in the household. The improvement of nutrition outcomes of left-behind older adults is mainly due to increased consumption of cereals, meat, eggs, and fish.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100996
JournalEconomics and Human Biology
Number of pages20
Publication statusPublished - May 2021


  • Food composition
  • Left-behind older adult
  • Nutrient intake
  • Offspring migration


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