Date of Graduation

Spring 5-18-2024

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in International and Development Economics (MSIDEC)


College of Arts and Sciences



First Advisor

Peter Lorentzen

Second Advisor

Alessandra Cassar


This study explores the intricate relationship between socioeconomic status (SES) and the mental health outcomes of primary caregivers in rural China, focusing on the Early Childhood Development (ECD) context in Ya'an. Anchored in a major intervention project launched in 2023, the study critically examines the hypothesis that higher socioeconomic status correlates with lower levels of negative emotions among caregivers.

Utilizing cross-sectional data, the research investigates how educational attainment and household income influence caregivers' mental health, measured through the DASS-21 score in three dimensions: stress, anxiety, and depression. The findings reveal that higher household income and educational levels are significantly associated with reduced negative emotions, underscoring the protective effects of financial stability and education. Additionally, the study highlights distinct mental health challenges among different demographic groups, particularly emphasizing the heightened vulnerability of elderly caregivers and females.

The results advocate for targeted mental health interventions and policies that address both immediate symptoms and broader socioeconomic determinants. Investment in education and healthcare is identified as crucial for improving caregivers' well-being and fostering a supportive environment for early childhood development. This study also calls for future research to investigate the role of parents' mental well-being as a mediator between socioeconomic status and children’s cognitive development, offering deeper insights into how poverty impacts children's long-term well-being. Additionally, exploring mental health disparities between genders can help understand the unique challenges faced by each group, informing the development of gender-specific mental health interventions. Incorporating subjective indicators such as Subjective Social Status (SSS) would also be valuable in examining the dynamics of perceived social positions and their impact on mental health. By addressing these areas, the study aims to inform policy and programmatic strategies that enhance the mental health and well-being of caregivers and their children in rural settings.