Grandmothers, Formal Care, and Educational Advantage in China

Document Type

Contribution to Books

Publication Date


Publication Title

Inequality Across Societies: Families, Schools and Persisting Stratification (Research in the Sociology of Education, Volume 14)


Among U.S. children, research indicates that early childhood experiences, including the child care environment, affect later educational outcomes. Yet, research on educational stratification in low-income countries rarely features the preschool years. We investigate the organization of child care among preschoolers in China. In-depth interviews reveal that grandmother care and formal care are highly desirable. Formal care, in particular, is perceived to provide educational advantage. Using China Health and Nutrition Survey (CHNS) data, and mixed random effects logit models, we explore the determinants of grandmother care and formal care. Results suggest poverty is associated with gender bias; in low-income households, boys without siblings are especially likely to receive formal care. These results call for greater attention to early childhood in research on educational stratification in China and other low-income settings.

Original Citation

Short, S.E., Sun, R. (2003). Grandmothers, formal care, and educational advantage in China. In D. Baker, B. Fuller, E. Hannum, and R. Werum (eds.) Inequality across societies: families, schools and persisting stratification (Research in the Sociology of Education, Volume 14), (p.7-31). Amsterdam: JAI.