For Better or for Worse: The Health Implications of Marriage Separation by Migration in China

Feinian Chen, University of Maryland
Hui Liu, Michigan State University
Yu Guo, University of Maryland

Massive rural-to-urban migration in China has led to spatial separation between millions of married couples. In this paper, we ask the question of whether the well-documented health benefits of marriage extend to the left-behind individuals who are spatially separated from their spouses. Using a longitudinal data that spans sixteen years (China Health and Nutrition Survey 1991, 1993, 1997, 2000, 2004, 2006), we compare the health trajectories of adult individuals across different marital status, while taking into account of physical presence or absence of the spouse. We also explore the various pathways that marriage (and presence of spouse) may influence health, including economic resources and health behavior. We further examine the effects of the duration and transition of marriage separation on health trajectories, as well as the gender differentials. Preliminary analysis suggests a clear health disadvantage of married individuals whose spouses are absent, compared with those whose spouses are present.

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Presented in Session 101: Economics, Families, and Well-Being