How Income Shapes Preschoolers’ Development in China

Wei-Jun Yeung , National University of Singapore
Xuejiao Chen, National University of Singapore

We examine how family income shapes pre-school children’s cognitive development and behavior in China, where two critical structural factors have significantly shaped children’s development: the large-scale internal migration and a key social stratification mechanism – the hukou system. We provide nuanced evidence for early childhood development by investigating the family investment and family stress models. Data from a national study in China are used to evaluate the mediating pathways through which income affects children. Two distinct mediating pathways are found. Family income is significantly associated with children’s cognitive outcomes through the provision of a stimulating environment. Children’s behavior problems are affected by how family income affects primary caregiver’s depressive affect and punitive parenting practices. The developmental context are important to consider. Children in urban areas and those migrated to cities with parents outperform rural children in both verbal and numeracy tests. Children taken care of by fathers have more behavioral problems.

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 Presented in Session 8. Economy, Labor Force, Education, & Inequality