Intrahousehold Property Ownership and Children’s Behavioral Outcomes in China

Mon, Nov 8, 2021, 8:30 pm
Registration Required - open to the public
Paul and Marcia Wythes Center on Contemporary China


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This study examines the effect of the 2011 judicial interpretation to the Marriage Law in China on children’s behavioral outcomes (e.g., smoking, drinking, quarreling with parents). This legal change altered the property division rule upon divorce, from an equal-division regime to a title-based one. On the one hand, this legal change lowered women’s bargaining power within the household, and therefore may increase children’s undesirable behaviors by negatively affecting investment in children’s human capital, family relationships, and parenting practices. On the other hand, the legal change may decrease children’s undesirable behaviors by increasing child homeownership, improving family relationships and parenting practices. Using data from the China Family Panel Studies in 2010-2014, we compared behavioral outcomes of affected and unaffected children before and after the legal change using a difference-in-differences design. We find that it decreased children’s undesirable behaviors in 2012 and 2014 by 6% and 10%, respectively. The reduction in children’s undesirable behaviors was particularly large among children from disadvantaged backgrounds. The negative effect of the 2011 judicial interpretation was likely driven by increased child home ownership and improved parenting practices. Our findings have important implications on policies promoting asset building for children, particularly those with disadvantaged backgrounds.  


Emma Zang is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology at Yale University. She received her Ph.D. in Public Policy in 2019 and MA in Economics in 2017, both from Duke University. As a demographer, her research interests lie at the intersection of health, family, and inequality. Her work aims to improve the understanding of 1) how early-life conditions affect later-life health outcomes; 2) social stratification and health; 3) spillover effects within the household exploiting policy changes. She is also interested in developing and evaluating methods to model trajectories and life transitions in order to better understand how demographic and socioeconomic inequalities shape the health and well-being of individuals from life course perspectives. Her work has appeared in journals such as the American Journal of Sociology, Demography, Social Science & Medicine, Journal of Marriage and Family, and JAMA Internal Medicine. Her research has been covered by major media outlets in the United States, China, South Korea, India, and Singapore, such as CNN, NBC, Harvard Business Review, the Boston Globe, the Washington Post, and


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