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Spillover effects of adult children’s schooling on parents’ smoking cessation: evidence from China’s compulsory schooling reform


Objective As elderly parents today will share a longer life with their children than ever before, the spillover effects of children’s human capital on parents’ well-being become increasingly important. This study investigated whether children’s schooling leads parents to give up smoking and whether the effects were moderated by their education or child–parent contact frequency.

Methods Using data from the China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Study, we conducted an instrumental variable (IV) analysis using China’s compulsory schooling reform in the 1980s as a natural experiment.

Results The IV estimates suggest that elderly parents of more highly educated children are more likely to quit smoking. Moreover, the effects are more significant among parents who had not finished primary school and also slightly stronger among parents who live close to their children or meet their children frequently.

Discussion Our findings add to current evidence regarding spillover effects of education on smoking cessation. A child’s education may exert an impact through the spillover of health knowledge.

  • gerontology
  • health behaviour
  • health inequalities
  • smoking
  • social epidemiology

Data availability statement

Data are available in a public, open access repository. The data used for this study is mainly from China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Study, which is a large-sample survey managed by Peking University. The data are publicly available from the website:

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