We also seek to explain why parents in rural China appear to be engaging in poor parenting practices. The paper brings together quantitative results from a survey of 1,442 caregivers of 18- to 30-month-old children in children in 11 nationally designated poverty counties as well as analysis of interviews with 20 caregivers in 8 rural villages. The results of the quantitative analysis demonstrate that 42 percent of children in the sample are cognitively impaired and 10.2 percent experience delayed motor development [emphasis added by TC]. According to the quantitative data, the poor cognitive development is not due to the fact that parents do not care for their children, as the majority reported that they enjoyed spending time with their child (88.6%). Nor are the delays due to a lack of a sense of parental responsibility, as almost all caregivers responded that they believed it was their responsibility to help their child learn about the world around them (94.6%). Yet poor parenting practices appear to be in part to blame: quantitative analysis shows a significant positive correlation between singing, reading, and playing with a child and their cognitive and psychomotor development. The empirical data shows, however, that 87.4 percent of parents do not read to their children; 62.5 percent do not sing to their children; and 60.8 percent do not play with their children. In the qualitative section of the paper we provide evidence suggesting that the prevalence of poor parenting practices does not stem from inadequate financial resources or parental indifference to the child’s development. Instead, the three main constraints influencing parental behaviors are (a) not knowing that they should be engaging in these parenting behaviors at this stage in the child’s development, (b) not knowing how to properly interact with the child, and (c) not having time to practice such behaviors.
Like all papers, this one is subject to various cavils and caveats, or perhaps the sample is not truly representative. Still, it is a useful antidote for assuming that factors of IQ and human capital necessarily give China a big growth advantage in the decades to come. Chinese test scores are good, but rural China does not always meet the Chinese average, and that is where much of the next wave of growth needs to come from.
Of course for more on these issues you need to read Garett Jones’s forthcoming The Hive Mind.
For the pointer I thank Christopher Balding, here is his new post on how stressed are the major Chinese banks?: “Chinese banks are slush funds to direct capital to preferred companies.”