Three Essays on Family Economic Issues in China

Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. Jean Kimmel

Second Advisor

Dr. Wei-Chiao Huang

Third Advisor

Dr. Kevin Lee


Family issues, China


China has undergone a dramatic transformation in the past half century as its economy has experienced a high speed of growth, becoming a more competitive economic system. Along with these economic changes, family economic circumstances have evolved. This dissertation is comprised of three essays examining family economic issues in China, including marriage, maternal health, and maternal employment.

The first essay is titled “An Economic Analysis of Marital Dissolution in China.” This essay employs data from the 2014 wave of the China Family Panel Study survey, adopting a logit model as well as a Cox proportional hazard model to examine the factors important to marital dissolution in China, with a focus on the importance of individuals’ occupations. Both models produce similar results concerning the factors that influence divorce probabilities in China. The results reveal that occupations are not important determinants of divorce for women but are important for men; in particular, men working in occupations that confer social status have a lower likelihood of divorce while men working in agriculture have a higher likelihood of divorce.

The second essay is titled “Explaining the Decline in the Maternal Mortality Rate in China from 2002 to 2016.” This essay uses a province-level fixed effects regression model to explain the recent trend in maternal mortality in China. The data are drawn from the National Bureau of Statistics of China, published in Statistical Yearbooks on Health, Population, Employment, Agriculture and Environment. The results reveal that a higher female illiteracy rate and a higher amount of pesticide usage are associated with a higher maternal mortality rate in China. However, factors related to modernization or improved female empowerment are associated with lower maternal mortality.

The third essay is titled “The Impact of Child Health and Other Socio-Economic Factors on Maternal Employment in China”. This study employs data from the 2016 wave of the China Family Panel Study survey on married and single mothers, and relies on an instrumental variable (IV) bivariate probit model with a set of instrumental variables (parental absence, ever breastfed, birthweight, and medical care expenses) for child health. The results show that child health is a statistically significant predictor of maternal employment for both married mothers and single mothers of infants as well as older preschool-aged children. Specifically, single and married mothers have higher employment probabilities if their children were recently sick.

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