Family-level factors that characterize the home environment are critical inputs to early language and cognitive development, and potential mechanisms for improving developmental outcomes in vulnerable populations. Many studies conducted in high-income and Western settings highlight stimulating parenting, the home language environment, and parental self-efficacy as possible mechanisms of early development, though less is known about how these family-level factors impact child development in low- or middle-income settings. Even less is known about these family-level factors and early childhood development in rural China, where rates of cognitive and language delay in children aged 0–3 years are as high as 45% and 46%, respectively. Using data collected from 77 rural households with children aged 18–24 months in Southwestern China, this study examines the associations between stimulating parenting, the home language environment, and parental self-efficacy, and early cognitive and language development. The results indicate that stimulating parenting was significantly associated with cognitive, language, and overall development; the home language environment was only significantly associated with language development; and parental self-efficacy was not significantly associated with any developmental outcomes. The implications of such findings reveal mechanisms for supporting healthy child development in rural China.
Although eyeglasses have been considered a cost-effective way to combat myopia, the empirical evidence of its impacts on improving learning outcomes is inconsistent. This paper provides empirical evidence examining the effect of providing eyeglasses on academic performance between provinces with a different economic level in western China. Overall, we find a significant impact in Intention-to-Treat analysis and a large and significant local average treatment effect of providing free eyeglasses to students in the poor province but not in the other. The difference in impact between the two provinces is not a matter of experimental design, implementation, or partial compliance. Instead, we find that the lack of impact in the wealthier provinces is mainly due to less blackboard usage in class and wealthier households. Our study found that providing free eyeglasses to disadvantaged groups boosted their academic performance more than to their counterparts.
The objectives of this paper were to examine the risk of depression and depressive symptoms among Han and minority children and adolescents in rural China, the links between academic performance and depressive symptoms, and the prevalence of these links among specific subgroups. A total of 8392 4th, 5th, and 6th grade students at 105 sample rural schools in eight low-income counties and districts in a prefectural-level city in Southwestern China were randomly selected using a three-step sampling strategy. A total of 51% of the sample were female (SD = 0.50), and the age range was 7 to 19 years (mean = 11.35 years; SD = 1.05). Using the Patient Health Questionnaire 8-item depression scale, the prevalence of depressive symptoms in the sample was assessed, while data on students’ academic performance (standardized math test) and demographic characteristics were also collected. Our results show that the rates of major depression were 19% for Han students, 18% for Tibetan students, and 22% for Yi students; the rates of severe depression were 2% for Han and Tibetan students, and 3% for Yi students. Yi students were at significantly higher risks for major and severe depression than Han students. We conducted multivariate regression and heterogeneous analyses. Academic performance was negatively and significantly correlated to depressive symptoms. Across the whole sample, students with lower math scores, minority students, boys, younger students, and students with migrant parents were most vulnerable to depressive symptoms. The heterogeneous analysis suggests that among poor-performing students, subgroups at higher risk for depression include boys, non-boarding students, and students whose mothers had graduated from high school or above. These findings indicate a need to improve mental health outcomes of rural Han and minority primary school students, targeting academic performance for possible intervention.
This study documents the COVID-19 disease-control measures enacted in rural China and examines the economic and social impacts of these measures. We conducted two rounds of surveys with 726 randomly selected village informants across seven provinces. Strict disease-control measures have been universally enforced and appear to have been successful in limiting disease transmission in rural communities. The infection rate in our sample was 0.001 per cent, a rate that is near the national average outside of Hubei province. None of the villages reported any COVID-19-related deaths. For a full month during the quarantine, the rate of employment of rural workers was essentially zero. Even after the quarantine measures were lifted, nearly 70 per cent of the villagers still were unable to work owing to workplace closures. Although action has been taken to mitigate the potential negative effects, these disease-control measures might have accelerated the inequality between rural and urban households in China.
Rural China has seen an increase in its migrant workers returning home. As a result, many of these workers’ children, who had previously boarded at school, needed to return home as well. While the existing research indicates that boarding affects the development of disadvantaged children, the effect of the switch to nonboarding on the growth of vulnerable boarding children remains unknown. Using two-stage data from 20,594 fourth- and fifth-grade students in rural Shaanxi and Gansu provinces as well as the difference-in-differences method, this study estimates the impact of switching to nonboarding on the academic performance and mental health of vulnerable boarding students. The results suggest that the shift toward nonboarding significantly reduces boarding students’ academic performance, and further testing shows that these results are robust. Additionally, the switch to nonboarding insignificantly increased the standardized mental health scores of rural primary school students but significantly increased their standardized impulsive tendency scores. Heterogeneity analysis found that boarding students whose mothers had lower educational achievement or whose families belonged to lower economic levels had poorer academic performance after switching, while boarding students whose parents had higher education achievement or myopia possessed better mental health after switching. This study offers novel, policy-relevant insights into potential strategies that would improve the academic performance and mental health of students who transition to nonboarding, especially those with low-educated parents and those belonging to poor families.
Introduction: Inadequate care during early childhood can lead to long-term deficits in skills. Parenting programmes that encourage investment in young children are a promising tool for improving early development outcomes and long-term opportunities in low-income and middle-income regions, such as rural China.
Methods: We conducted a systematic review and a meta-analysis to investigate the prevalence of early developmental delays and stimulating parenting practices as well as the effect of parental training programmes on child development outcomes in rural China. We obtained data in English from EconPapers, PubMed, PsycARTICLES, Cochrane Library, Web of Science and Scopus (Elsevier) and in Chinese from China National Knowledge Infrastructure, Wanfang Data and VIP Information. We conducted frequentist meta-analyses of aggregate data and estimated random-effects meta-regressions. Certainty of evidence was rated according to the Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation approach.
Results: We identified 19 observational studies on the prevalence of developmental delays and stimulating parenting practices for children under 5 years of age (n=19 762) and ten studies on the impact of parental training programmes on early child development (n=13 766). Children’s risk of cognitive, language and social-emotional delays in the rural study sites (covering 14 provinces mostly in Central and Western China) was 45%, 46%, and 36%, respectively. Parental training programmes had a positive impact on child cognition, language and social-emotional development.
Conclusion: There is evidence to suggest that early developmental delay and the absence of stimulating parenting practices (ie, reading, storytelling and singing with children) may be prevalent across rural, low-income and middle-income regions in Central and Western China. Results support the effectiveness of parental training programmes to improve early development by encouraging parental engagement.
This study examines the effects of local and nationwide COVID‐19 disease control measures on the health and economy of China's rural population. We conducted phone surveys with 726 randomly selected village informants across seven rural Chinese provinces in February 2020. Four villages (0.55%) reported infections, and none reported deaths. Disease control measures had been universally implemented in all sample villages. About 74% of informants reported that villagers with wage‐earning jobs outside the village had stopped working due to workplace closures. A higher percentage of rural individuals could not work due to transportation, housing, and other constraints. Local governments had taken measures to reduce the impact of COVID‐19. Although schools in all surveyed villages were closed, 71% of village informants reported that students were attending classes online. Overall, measures to control COVID‐19 appear to have been successful in limiting disease transmission in rural communities outside the main epidemic area. Rural Chinese citizens, however, have experienced significant economic consequences from the disease control measures.
The home language environment is critical to early language development and subsequent skills. However, few studies have quantitatively measured the home language environment in low-income, developing settings. This study explores variations in the home language environment and child language skills among households in poor rural villages in northwestern China. Audio recordings were collected for 38 children aged 20–28 months and analyzed using Language Environment Analysis (LENA) software; language skills were measured using the MacArthur–Bates Mandarin Communicative Developmental Inventories expressive vocabulary scale. The results revealed large variability in both child language skills and home language environment measures (adult words, conversational turns, and child vocalizations) with 5- to 6-fold differences between the highest and lowest scores. Despite variation, however, the average number of adult words and conversational turns were lower than found among urban Chinese children. Correlation analyses did not identify significant correlations between demographic characteristics and the home language environment. However, the results do indicate significant correlations between the home language environment and child language skills, with conversational turns showing the strongest correlation. The results point to a need for further research on language engagement and ways to increase parent–child interactions to improve early language development among young children in rural China.
Internet use has become particularly prevalent among adolescents, prompting much thought and concern about both its potential benefits and adverse effects on adolescent learning outcomes. Much of the empirical literature on the impact of Internet use on adolescent learning outcomes is mixed, and few studies examine the causal relationship between the two in rural China. In order to bridge these gaps, we use empirical analysis to investigate the effect of Internet use on the learning outcomes of adolescents in rural China.
We use fixed effect models with samples drawn from a large nationally representative dataset (the China Family Panel Studies—CFPS) to identify the causal impacts of Internet use on the learning outcomes of three cohorts (Cohort A (N = 540), Cohort B (N = 287) and Cohort C (N = 827)) of adolescents in rural China.
The results of the descriptive analysis show a continued increase in the number of adolescents accessing the Internet and the amount of time they spend online. The results of the fixed effect models show that Internet use has positive (in many of the analyses), but mostly insignificant impacts, on the learning outcomes of adolescents. In the sets of results that find significant associations between Internet use and learning outcomes, the measured effects are moderate.
This study investigates the causal relationship between Internet use and adolescent learning outcomes in rural China. The findings claim that there is not a great need to worry about adverse effects of Internet use on adolescent learning development. Attention, however, should focus on seeking ways to improve the positive effects of the Internet use on adolescent learning outcomes. The study will provide a reference and experience for the development of education and the Internet in rural areas and promote the integrated development of urban and rural areas in China.
Background: Maternal health during pregnancy is a key input in fetal health and child development. This study
aims to systematically describe the health behaviors of pregnant women in rural China and identify which
subgroups of women are more likely to engage in unhealthy behaviors during pregnancy.
In late January 2020, China’s government initiated its first aggressive measures to combat COVID-19 by forbidding individuals from leaving their homes, radically limiting public transportation, cancelling or postponing large public events, and closing schools across the country. The rollout of these measures coincided with China’s Lunar New Year holiday, during which more than 280 million people had returned from their places of work to their home villages in rural areas. The disease control policies remained in place until late February and early March, when they were gradually loosened to
Previous literature suggests subpar teaching is a primary reason why rural Chinese students lag behind academically. We initiate an investigation into the potential of educational technology (EdTech) to increase teaching quality in rural China. First, we discuss why conventional approaches of improving teaching in remote schools are infeasible in China’s context, referring to past research. We then explore the capacity of technology-assisted instruction to improve academic performance by examining previous empirical analyses. Third, we show that China is not limited by the resource constraints of other developing countries due to substantial policy support and a thriving EdTech industry. Finally, we identify potential implementation-related challenges based on the results of a preliminary qualitative survey of pilots of EdTech interventions. With this paper, we lay the foundation for a long-term research investigation into whether EdTech can narrow China’s education gap.
In China, low levels of early childhood development (ECD) in rural areas may inhibit economic development as the nation attempts to transition from a middle-income manufacturing-based economy to a high-income innovation economy. This paper surveys the recent literature on ECD among children ages 0-3 years in rural China, including rates of developmental delays, causes of delays, and implications for the future of China’s economy. Recent studies have found high rates of developmental delays among young children in rural China and point to poor nutrition and psychosocial stimulation as the primary causes. This review highlights the need for large-scale ECD interventions in rural China to raise human capital and support future economic growth.
Abstract: Visual impairment is common among rural Chinese children, but fewer than a quarter of children who need glasses actually own and use them. To study the effect of rural county hospital vision centers (VC) on self-reported glasses ownership and wearing behavior (primary outcome) among rural children in China, we conducted a cluster-randomized controlled trial at a VC in the government hospital of Qinan County, a nationally-designated poor county. All rural primary schools (n = 164) in the county were invited to participate. Schools were randomly assigned to either the treatment group to receive free vision care and eyeglasses, if needed, or control group, who received glasses only at the end of the study. Among 2806 eligible children with visiual impairment (visual acuity ≤ 6/12 in either eye), 93 (3.31%) were lost to follow-up, leaving 2713 students (45.0% boys). Among these, glasses ownership at the end of the school year was 68.6% among 1252 treatment group students (82 schools), and 26.4% (p < 0.01) among 1461 controls (82 schools). The rate of wearing glasses was 55.2% in the treatment group and 23.4% (p < 0.01) among the control group. In logistic regression models, treatment group membership was significantly associated with spectacle ownership (Odds Ratio [OR] = 11.9, p < 0.001) and wearing behavior (OR = 7.2, p < 0.001). County hospital-based vision centers appear effective in delivering childrens’ glasses in rural China.
Can a county-based vision center increase eyeglasses use and improve school performance among primary schoolchildren in rural China? This cluster randomized clinical trial of 31 schools and 2613 participants showed that children who received eyeglasses earlier in the school year performed significantly better on an end-of-year mathematics test than children who received eyeglasses later in the year, equivalent to half a semester. Provision of free eyeglasses also improved children's use of spectacles.