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Working Paper

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Research has identified education as an important predictor of physical functioning in old age. Older adults in Taiwan tend to experience close ties to family members and high rates of adult child coresidence, much more so than is typical in Western cultures. These circumstances might imply additional health-related benefits stemming from the education of grown children. This association could arise in a number of ways, for instance through the sharing of health-related information between child and parent, the quality of caregiving efforts, monetary assistance for medical and other services, or through other psychosocial avenues. In this study, a nationally representative survey of older Taiwanese is employed to examine these concurrent effects. Outcome variables include the existence of any functional limitations (dichotomously measured) and the severity of functional disorders (ordinally measured). Dichotomous and ordinal logistic models are employed. Results suggest that, after adjusting for age, sex, and other factors, both child’s and parent’s education have an impact on the existence of physical limitations; however, the child’s education is more important than the parent’s in predicting severity of limitations. This finding implies that models ignoring social network characteristics in the effort to determine health outcomes of older adults may be misspecified, at least in some non-Western societies.