There is a growing need for a HRS-type survey in China. China has more elderly than any country in the world and is one of the fastest aging countries in the world today. China's population is aging at income levels far lower than was true for industrial countries and faster than today's developing countries. By 2030, China's elderly population share is expected to reach 16%, greater than much richer countries such as Singapore, Malaysia, Israel, and Argentina. China's elderly support ratio (the number of prime-aged adults 25- 64 to the number older than 64) is projected to fall from nearly 13 in 2000 to 2.1 by 2050. Rapid aging in China is caused by growing length of life, in part resulting from China's rapid income growth) combined with rapid reductions in fertility associated with the implementation of China's very strong One Child Policy, which has been in place for over 25 years. Yet, after 30 years of rapid growth, growth fell drastically beginning in late 2008, potentially giving the elderly in China a serious negative economic shock that they could not have foreseen. In the summer of 2008 we successfully fielded a pilot for the China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Study (CHARLS), which was patterned on the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) in the United States and other HRS-type surveys. We collected the pilot data in two provinces: Zhejiang and Gansu. Gansu is one of the poorest provinces in China and has a large rural population. Zhejiang, in contrast, is one of the leading centers of Chinese industrialization and export to the west. It is far more urban than Gansu province. We obtained a sample of 1,570 households with individuals 45 years old and older and 2,685 individuals (we randomly choose one person over 45 years per household to interview, plus their spouse). Now we are proposing to field the first two national waves of CHARLS in 2011 and 2013. We will include the pilot households in CHARLS, which will give users an immediate panel dimension. We expect a sample size of 10,210 households with a member over 45 years old, including the pilot households, and 17,635 individuals, whom we expect to interview. We will track households and individuals who have moved, to attain low attrition rates.
The China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Study (CHARLS) will enrich the international landscape of aging studies. CHARLS will follow closely the existing Health and Retirement Studies around the world in order to provide the capability for scholars to engage in comparative studies as well as studies of the special conditions in China. The first two national waves of CHARLS are scheduled for 2011 and 2013.