Parental unemployment and child health in China

Janneke Pieters, Samantha Rawlings*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


This paper studies the causal effect of maternal and paternal unemployment on child health in China, analyzing panel data for the period 1997–2004, when the country underwent economic reforms leading to massive layoffs. Using a FE-IV strategy, we find that paternal unemployment reduces child health, while maternal unemployment has beneficial child health impacts. Analysis of channels shows that paternal and maternal unemployment have different effects on income, time use, and children’s diets. Though many estimates are imprecise, a key finding is that paternal unemployment significantly reduces children’s fat intake and dietary diversity. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first evidence on the causal effect of parental unemployment on the nutrient intake of children aged 0–17. In all, our estimates are consistent with the notion that traditional gender roles can explain why mothers’ and fathers’ unemployment affect child health differently.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)207-237
Number of pages31
JournalReview of Economics of the Household
Issue number1
Early online date23 Jun 2019
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2020


  • Child Health
  • China
  • Nutrition
  • Unemployment


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