In low- and middle-income countries, urbanization has spurred the expansion of peri-urban communities, or urban communities of formerly rural residents with low socioeconomic status. The growth of these communities offers researchers an opportunity to measure the associations between the level of urbanization and the home language environment (HLE) among otherwise similar populations. Data were collected in 2019 using Language Environment Analysis observational assessment technology from 158 peri-urban and rural households with Han Chinese children (92 males, 66 females) aged 18–24 months in China. Peri-urban children scored lower than rural children in measures of the HLE and language development. In both samples, child age, gender, maternal employment, and sibling number were positively correlated with the HLE, which was in turn correlated with language development.
The home language environment is a significant correlate of early childhood development outcomes; however, less is known about this mechanism in rural and peri-urban China where rates of developmental delay are as high as 52%. This study examines associations between the home language environment and child development in a sample of 158 children (58% boys) aged 18–24 months (Mage = 21.5) from rural and peri-urban households in Western China. Results show a significant association between adult-child conversation count and language development, suggesting the home language environment may be a mechanism for child development in rural and peri-urban China. 22.5% of the sample were at risk of language delay. Mother’s employment and child’s age were significant factors in the home language environment.
Economic Development and Cultural Change,
September 15, 2023
Besides increasing knowledge, there is another potential mechanism at work when information is delivered to a treatment group: increasing the salience of existing knowledge. We use data from a randomized controlled trial of a health information campaign to explore the relative importance of this additional mechanism in a real-world environment. The health information campaign addressed the benefits of wearing eyeglasses and provided information meant to address the common misconceptions that contribute to low adoption rates of eyeglasses. In total, our study sample included 931 students with poor vision (mostly myopia), their parents, and their homeroom teachers in 84 primary schools in rural China. We find that the health information campaign was able to successfully increase student ownership and wearing of eyeglasses, relative to a control group. We demonstrate that the campaign had a larger impact when levels of preexisting information among certain subgroups of participants—namely, parents of students—were higher while we simultaneously provided new information to others. This suggests that the interaction between directed attention (i.e., salience) and baseline knowledge is important. We do not, however, find similar increases among teachers or the students themselves and additionally find no impacts on academic outcomes.
Objective To test the feasibility and effectiveness of a mindfulness-based intervention in rural-to-urban migrant Chinese children using trained community volunteers.
Method Migrant students ages 9 to 16 from 5 schools in Shanghai (N = 653) were randomly assigned to a mindfulness only group (n = 167), a mindfulness plus life skills group (n = 118), or a waitlist control group (n = 368). The first 2 groups received an 8-week mindfulness intervention delivered 1 hour weekly by trained community volunteers. The mindfulness plus life skills group received 8 additional hours of skills-based mentorship. Measurements on mindfulness, resilience, and anxiety and depression symptoms were collected before and after intervention. Multivariable regression analyses compared the intervention vs control groups.
Results Before intervention, there were no significant demographic or outcome measure differences between groups except that students in the intervention groups were slightly older. Students had relatively low levels of mindfulness and prosociality difficulties and similar degrees of depression and anxiety symptoms compared with prior studies. After intervention, no statistically significant differences were found in mean scores for mindfulness, resilience, anxiety, or depression in the intervention vs control groups.
Conclusion A volunteer-led mindfulness intervention did not significantly benefit migrant Chinese children after 8 weeks. More implementation research is needed for low-cost, scalable, and contextually effective mental health prevention programs.
Background: Prenatal anaemia causes serious consequences for both mother and foetus, and dietary factors are suggested to be associated with anaemia. However, research in pregnant women living in rural areas is limited. We aim to assess the contribution of dietary diversity to the magnitude of prenatal anaemia in rural China and identify the interactions between dietary diversity and several sociodemographic and maternal characteristics in relation to anaemia. Methods: A multi-stage random cluster sampling method was used to select pregnant women in rural western China. The Woman’s Dietary Diversity Score was created to measure dietary diversity, which was recoded into terciles. Multinomial logistic regression models were used to assess the associations between dietary diversity score terciles and the magnitude of prenatal anaemia. Multiplicative interactions were tested by adding the product term of dietary diversity and several sociodemographic and maternal characteristics into the regression models. Results: Out of 969 participants, 54.3% were measured as anaemic, with 28.6% mildly anaemic and 25.7% moderately to severely anaemic. There was an absence of agreement between self-reported and measured anaemia status (κ = 0.28, 95% CI [0.22–0.34]). Participants in the highest dietary diversity score tercile had lower odds of being moderately to severely anaemic after adjusting for potential confounders (RRR = 0.65, 95% CI [0.44, 0.98]). In participants with moderate to severe anaemia, significant interactions were found between dietary diversity score terciles, age, and parity (p for interaction < 0.05). Conclusions: The prevalence of prenatal anaemia in rural China remains high, and pregnant women living in these areas are insufficiently aware of their anaemia status. Improving dietary diversity is needed to manage prenatal anaemia in rural areas.
Infants born small for gestational age (SGA) remains a significant global public health concern, with potential interconnections among maternal diet, pre-pregnancy BMI, gestational weight gain (GWG), and SGA. This prospective study investigated the association between dietary diversity (DD) during pregnancy and the risk of SGA, as well as the synergistic effect of DD with pre-pregnancy BMI and GWG on SGA. Maternal dietary intake during pregnancy was assessed using 24 h dietary recalls, and dietary diversity scores (DDS) were calculated based on the FAO’s Minimum Dietary Diversity for Women index. Infant information was followed up. The Poisson regression model was employed to determine the association between maternal DD and SGA. Interactions between DD and pre-pregnancy BMI or GWG were evaluated under additive and multiplicative models. Among the 560 singleton live births, 62 (11.07%) were classified as SGA. After adjusting for potential confounders, the DDS exhibited a protective effect against SGA (aRR: 0.76; 95% CI: 0.62–0.95). DD modified the association between being underweight prior to pregnancy and SGA on the additive scale (interaction contrast ratio = 7.39; 95% CI: 5.84, 8.94). These findings suggest that improving dietary diversity during pregnancy, particularly among women with a low pre-pregnancy BMI, may be a feasible strategy to reduce the risk of SGA newborns.
Introduction: The high incidences of both the developmental delay among young children and the mental health problems of their caregivers are major threats to public health in low-income and middle-income countries. Parental training interventions during early childhood have been shown to benefit early development, yet evidence on strategies to promote caregiver mental health remains limited. In addition, evidence on the optimal design of scalable interventions that integrate early child development and maternal mental health components is scarce.
Methods and analysis: We design a single-blind, factorial, cluster-randomised controlled, superiority trial that will be delivered and supervised by local agents of the All China Women’s Federation (ACWF), the nationwide, government-sponsored social protection organisation that aims to safeguard the rights and interests of women and children. We randomise 125 villages in rural China into four arms: (1) a parenting stimulation arm; (2) a caregiver mental health arm; (3) a combined parenting stimulation and caregiver mental health arm and (4) a pure control arm. Caregivers and their children (aged 6–24 months at the time of baseline data collection) are selected and invited to participate in the 12-month-long study. The parenting stimulation intervention consists of weekly, one-on-one training sessions that follow a loose adaptation of the Reach Up and Learn curriculum. The caregiver mental health intervention is comprised of fortnightly group activities based on an adaptation of the Thinking Healthy curriculum from the WHO. Primary outcomes include measures of child development and caregiver mental health. Secondary outcomes include a comprehensive set of physical, psychological and behavioural outcomes. This protocol describes the design and evaluation plan for this programme.
Ethics and dissemination: This study received approval from the Institutional Review Board of Stanford University (IRB Protocol #63680) and the Institutional Review Board of the Southwestern University of Finance and Economics in Chengdu, Sichuan, China. Informed oral consent will be obtained from all caregivers for their own and their child’s participation in the study. The full protocol will be publicly available in an open-access format. The study findings will be published in economics, medical and public health journals, as well as Chinese or English policy briefs.
How do state-controlled broadcasters reach foreign publics to engage in public diplomacy in the era of social media? Previous research suggests that features unique to social media, such as the ability to engage in two-way communication with audiences, provide state-controlled broadcasters new opportunities for online public diplomacy. In this paper, we examine what strategies were used by four Chinese state-controlled media outlets on Twitter to reach foreign publics as the Chinese Communist Party worked to expand its public diplomacy and international media outreach efforts. We find that all outlets increased the volume and diversity of content while none engaged in interactive, two-way communication with audiences, and none appeared to artificially inflate their follower count. One outlet, China Global Television Network, made outsized gains in followership, and it differs from the other Chinese outlets in that it was rebranded, it disseminated a relatively lower share of government-mandated narratives pertaining to China, and the tone of its reporting was more negative. These results show that during a period when Chinese state-controlled broadcasters gained followers on Twitter, outlets made limited use of features unique to social media and instead primarily used social media as a broadcast channel.
China's higher education system has undergone a rapid expansion over the last two decades. By drawing on hand-collected data, we explore students' experiences in college and in the labor market post-graduation in the wake of this expansion. According to our data, the largest employer of college graduates in the labor market was the state sector, followed by the domestic private sector. To explain the returns to college education in China, we explore three mechanisms: human capital, social networks, and signaling. We find that human capital measures, apart from a student's college English test scores, cannot explain the college wage premium, whereas both social networks (for example, membership of the Communist Party) and signaling matter significantly. This seems to indicate that in China, connections are crucial for student success in the labor market, whereas the higher education system itself is more a system for selecting talented individuals than it is for educating them. Finally, students allocate their time accordingly, for example, by spending more time studying English in college than any other subject.
One out of every three children under the age of 5 in developing countries lives in an environment that impedes human capital development. Children growing up in resource-poor settings are at an increased risk of early developmental delay due to risk factors such as being in environments that lack cognitive stimulation, nutrition, or care in the home environment. Given that early developmental deficits are difficult to reverse later in life, such deficits are key drivers of inequality and impediments for intergenerational mobility. This policy brief reviews this problem and then proposes a design of cost-effective, scalable, and sustainable parental training programs (focusing on psychosocial stimulation for young children) as a global strategy to improve the developmental opportunities of children before they reach the age of 5 in developing countries, to remediate social inequalities, and to boost long-term economic development. We present concrete policy recommendations for the implementation of such programs at scale.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS),
June 12, 2023
Significance One fundamental issue in economic, psychological, and social sciences is whether and how much income truly brings happiness. This paper draws on twins data to examine whether income indeed affects happiness and estimates the size of such an effect. We control for unobserved genetic factors that may impact both income and happiness using identical twins, address measurement error bias, and conduct a series of robustness checks. Income has a much larger effect than previous estimates: doubling income boosts the four-scale happiness value by 0.26 scales or 0.37 SDs. Heterogeneity analyses suggest that income matters most for males and the middle-aged. Our findings emphasize the importance of income maintenance for individuals’ well-being.
Abstract We estimate the causal effect of income on happiness using a unique dataset of Chinese twins. This allows us to address omitted variable bias and measurement errors. Our findings show that individual income has a large positive effect on happiness, with a doubling of income resulting in an increase of 0.26 scales or 0.37 SDs in the four-scale happiness measure. We also find that income matters most for males and the middle-aged. Our results highlight the importance of accounting for various biases when studying the relationship between socioeconomic status and subjective well-being.
Economic Development and Cultural Change,
May 23, 2023
EdTech, which includes computer assisted learning (CAL), online education, and remote instruction, was expanding rapidly even before the current full-scale substitution for in-person learning at all levels of education around the world because of COVID-19. Studies of CAL interventions often find positive effects, however, these “CAL programs” often include non-technology based inputs such as more time on learning and instructional support by facilitators in addition to technology-based components. In this paper, we discuss the possible channels by which CAL programs affect academic outcomes among schoolchildren. We isolate the technology-based effects of CAL from the total program effects by designing a novel multi-treatment field experiment with more than four thousand schoolchildren in rural China. For the full sample, we find null effects for both the total CAL program and the technology-based effects of CAL (which are measured relative to a traditional pencil-and-paper learning treatment) on math test scores. For boys, however, we find a positive and statistically significant effect of the CAL program, but do not find evidence of a positive effect for the technology-based effect of CAL. When focusing on grades, we find evidence of positive CAL program effects but find null effects when we isolate the technology-based effects of CAL. Our empirical results suggest that the “Tech” in EdTech may have relatively small additional effects on academic outcomes and yet that tech programs can substitute atleast to a certain extent for traditional learning.
Educational Research for Policy and Practice,
May 3, 2023
This study utilizes semi-structured interviews to explore the status quo of teacher training of rural and urban public primary school teachers in Henan Province China. Our findings showed that both rural and urban teachers had very limited training opportunities available to them. Most of the participants did not find the current training opportunities useful in improving their teaching practices. Both rural and urban teachers desired training in pedagogy, educational psychology, and curriculum. Rural teachers particularly expressed the need for training in ICT and classroom management skills. Observing education experts’ demonstration classes is the most preferred training format. Policy implications are discussed.
We study the effect of a victimization narrative on national identity and public opinion in China experimentally. Previous research has suggested that governments can shape public opinion by guiding citizens’ collective memories of historical events, but few studies have established a clear causal link. By conducting an online survey experiment among 1890 urban Chinese citizens, we examine the causal impact of historical narratives on political attitudes. We find that, compared to control conditions, a narrative focusing on China’s humiliating past in the late Qing significantly reinforces respondents’ attachment to the victim side of the Chinese national identity, raises suspicion of the intention of foreign governments in international disputes, stimulates preference for more hawkish foreign policies, and strengthens support for China’s current political system. These effects are particularly strong among respondents without a college degree.
This study investigated the association between household characteristics, perceived family support (PFS), and the developmental outcomes (resilience, academic performance, and prosociality) among at-risk students. Our large sample included 1564 primary and secondary school students from poor rural China (M = 11.55 years old). Having a caregiver whose resilience score was in the top 50% of the sample was associated with a 0.48-point increase (or 0.31 d effect size), while having a migrant mother was correlated with a 0.26-point decrease (or 0.17 d effect size). PFS was a significant (p < 0.0001) mediator between household characteristics and developmental outcomes. Our study highlights the link between caregiver resilience and PFS, and the healthy functioning of disadvantaged students in a developing context.
Parental investment in the home language environment during the earliest years is a critical predictor of early language development. Because most studies investigating the home language environment and child language development have been conducted in Western, high-income, and developed settings, less is known about such environments in low- or middle-income settings. This study was conducted in a peri-urban area in Southwestern China in a sample of 81 rural migrant and urbanized farmer families with children aged 18-24 months. The home language environment was measured using Language Environment Analysis (LENA) recorders and software, while early language development was measured using the MacArthur-Bates Communicative Developmental Inventories expressive vocabulary scale. Findings reveal large and substantial variation in the sample's home language environments and a strong association between the home language environment and child language development. Certain demographic characteristics, such as household resources, maternal employment, and gender, are associated with the home language environment. These findings highlight the needs for interventions specifically targeting the home language environment to improve early language development of young children and for more research on early childhood development in peri-urban China.
Using premier Language Environment Analysis technology to measure and analyze the home language environment, this observational study aims to describe the home language environment and child language ability, drawing on empirical data from 77 households with children aged 18–24 months from rural China. The results show large variation in measures of the home language environment and early language ability, similar to other rural Chinese samples. Results also demonstrate significant correlations between child age and the home language environment, maternal employment and the home language environment, father’s educational attainment and the home language environment, adult–child conversations and early language ability, and child vocalizations and early language ability.
Risk Management and Healthcare Policy,
March 9, 2023
Purpose: We examine how adolescent free time allocation—namely, screen time and outdoor time—is associated with mental health and academic performance in rural China.
Methods: This paper used a large random sample of rural junior high school students in Ningxia (n = 20,375; age=13.22), with data collected from self-reported demographic questionnaires (to assess free time allocation), the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (to assess mental health), and a standardized math test (to measure academic performance). We utilized a multivariate OLS regression model to examine associations between free time allocation and adolescent outcomes, controlling for individual and family characteristics.
Results: Our sample’s screen time and outdoor time both averaged around 1 hour. About 10% of the sample adolescents reported behavioral difficulties, while a similar percentage (11%) reported abnormal prosocial behaviors. Adolescents with higher levels of screen time (> 2 hours) were 3 percentage points more likely to have higher levels of behavioral difficulties (p< 0.001), indicating that excessive screen time was associated with worse mental health. Meanwhile, outdoor time was associated with better mental health, and positive correlations were observed at all levels of outdoor time (compared to no outdoor time, decreasing the likelihood of higher levels of behavioral difficulties by between 3 and 4 percentage points and of lower prosocial scores by between 6 and 8 percentage points; all p’s< 0.001). For academic performance, average daily screen times of up to 1 hour and 1– 2 hours were both positively associated with standardized math scores (0.08 SD, p< 0.001; 0.07 SD, p< 0.01, respectively), whereas there were no significant associations between outdoor time and academic performance.
Conclusion: Using a large sample size, this study was the first to examine the association between adolescent free time allocation with mental health and academic performance, providing initial insights into how rural Chinese adolescents can optimize their free time.
Background Mothers’ perception of infant hunger cues is a critical content of responsive feeding, which is central to the promotion of early childhood development. However, only a few studies have examined responsive feeding in China, especially lacking the studies on perceptions of infant hunger cues. Consider the cultural differences, the aim of this study was to describe the perceptions of infant hunger cues of Chinese mothers for infants aged 3 months, and explore the relationship between maternal perceptions of infant hunger cues and different feeding methods.
Methods A cross-sectional study was conducted with a sample of 326 mothers of healthy 3-month-old infants, including 188 exclusive breastfeeding (EBF) mothers and 138 formula feeding (FF) mothers. It was implemented in four provincial and municipal maternal and child health hospitals. The mothers’ perceptions of infant hunger cues were surveyed by self-reporting questionnaires. Chi-square tests and logistic analysis were applied to analyze the differences in maternal perceptions of infant hunger cues, including the number of hunger cues and the specific cues, between EBF group and FF group by controlling sociodemographic variables and the daily nursing indicators.
Results We found that a higher proportion of EBF mothers could perceive multiple hunger cues (≥ 2) than FF mothers (66.5% vs.55.1%). For specific cues, the EBF mothers had higher perceptions of infant’s “hand sucking” (67.6% vs. 53.6%) and “moving head frantically from side to side” (34.6% vs. 23.9%), all p < 0.05. Regression analysis revealed that EBF might support mothers to perceive infant hunger cues than FF mothers, with the number of infant hunger cues (OR = 1.70, 95% CI: 1.01–2.85), “hand sucking” (OR = 1.72, 95% CI: 1.04–2.87), “moving head frantically from side to side” (OR = 2.07, 95% CI: 1.19–3.62). The number of infant hunger cues perceived by mothers was also associated with their educational level and family structure.
Conclusion EBF mothers of 3-month-old infants may be more likely to perceive infant hunger cues than FF mothers in China. It is necessary to increase the health education about infant hunger and satiety cues to caregivers in China, especially among mothers with lower education levels, mothers living in nuclear families, and FF mothers.
According to World Bank data, only a handful of economies have risen from middle to high-income status since 1960, when economic catch-up growth in many developing economies took off. This article looks at how China compares to other countries stuck at the middle-income level.
A rich language environment is an important element of a nurturing home environment. Despite their proven importance, vocabulary and conversation have been shown to vary widely across households—even within the same socio-economic class. One significant gap in the existing literature is its nearly exclusive geographic focus on Western and developed settings, with little attention given to poorer communities in lower/middle income countries. The purpose of this study was to empirically illustrate the characteristics of the home language environment in the low SES, non-Western cultural setting of rural China.
Using Language Environment Analysis (LENA) automated language-analysis system, this study measured the home language environment of 38 children aged 20-27 months in Northwest rural China. Our primary measures of the home language environment were Adult Word Count (AWC), Conversational Turn Count (CTC) and Child Vocalization Count (CVC). Multivariate linear regression models were used to examine the association between home language environment and family/child characteristics, and language skills (Measured by MacArthur-Bates Communicative Developmental Inventory score).
In this paper, by comparison, we found that the home language environment of our rural sample fell far behind that of urban households. We also identify significant, positive correlations between language skills and both AWC and CTC. Our analysis finds no significant correlations between home language environment and family/child characteristics.
In this paper, we present the first ever findings using the LENA system to measure the home language environment of young children from poor rural communities in China. We found that the home language environment of lower-SES household was significantly worse than high-SES households, and demonstrated the importance of the home language environment to language skills, pointing to a need for more high-quality studies of the home language environment in rural China to better understand possible mechanisms behind low levels of parent-child language engagement and ways to improve the home language environment.
We link industrial clusters, regional productivity and resource reallocation efficiency with geographical and sectoral disaggregated data. Based on a county-industry level panel from 1998 to 2007 in China, we find that industrial clusters significantly increase local industries' productivity by lifting the average firm productivity and reallocating resources from less to more productive firms. Moreover, we find major mechanisms through which resource reallocation is improved within clusters: (i) clusters are associated with a higher firm turnover with increased entry and exit rates simultaneously; and (ii) within clusters' environment, the dispersion of individual firm's markup is significantly reduced, indicating intensified local competition within clusters. Such results suggest that industrial clusters in China help improve regional productivity and resource allocation efficiency with intensified competition and accelerated firm dynamics. The identification issues are carefully addressed by two-stage estimations with instrumental variables and other robustness checks.
In each of the three waves of the Section 301 tariffs on Chinese imports, the US government exempted some products on the originally proposed list from additional duties. Using these exempted products as the counterfactual, we identify modest but heterogeneous impacts of the tariffs on the value of US imports from China. We find a complete pass-through for the first and second waves of tariffs. However, unlike in previous studies, we estimate a very limited tariff pass-through of the third wave of tariffs. Finally, we find little import diversion for the US and significant export diversion for China.
Research suggests that elements of the family environment may have significant associations with cognitive and language development outcomes. Less is known, however, about the family environment in peri-urban China, where rates of cognitive and language delay in children aged 0-3 years are as high as 51% and 54%, respectively. Using data collected from 81 peri-urban households with toddlers aged 18-24 months in Southwestern China, this study examines the associations between stimulating parenting practices, the home language environment, and parental self-efficacy, with cognitive and language development. The results indicate that stimulating parenting practices was significantly associated with cognitive development, the home language environment was significantly associated with language development, and parental self-efficacy was significantly associated with cognitive development. The implications of such findings reveal several mechanisms for supporting healthy cognitive and language development among toddlers from peri-urban China.
Introduction Millions of young rural children in China still suffer from poor health and malnutrition, partly due to a lack of knowledge about optimal perinatal and child care among rural mothers and caregivers. Meanwhile, there is an urgent need to improve maternal mental health in rural communities. Comprehensive home visiting programmes delivered by community health workers (CHWs) can bridge the caregiver knowledge gap and improve child health and maternal well-being in low-resource settings, but the effectiveness of this approach is unknown in rural China. Additionally, grandmothers play important roles in child care and family decision-making in rural China, suggesting the importance of engaging multiple caregivers in interventions. The Healthy Future programme seeks to improve child health and maternal well-being by developing a staged-based curriculum that CHWs deliver to mothers and caregivers of young children through home visits with the assistance of a tablet-based mHealth system. This protocol describes the design and evaluation plan for this programme.
Methods and analysis We designed a cluster-randomised controlled trial among 119 rural townships in four nationally designated poverty counties in Southwestern China. We will compare the outcomes between three arms: one standard arm with only primary caregivers participating in the intervention, one encouragement arm engaging primary and secondary caregivers and one control arm with no intervention. Families with pregnant women or infants under 6 months of age are invited to enrol in the 12-month study. Primary outcomes include children’s haemoglobin levels, exclusive breastfeeding rates and dietary diversity in complementary feeding. Secondary outcomes include a combination of health, behavioural and intermediate outcomes.