Abstract This study compares current elderly support between rural and suburban elderly, drawn from a 1987 and 1989 cluster sample involving 6 Chinese villages purposely selected to reflect geographic variations and different standards of living. The results of the study indicate that social support for the elderly through pension and subsidy is improving, particularly in suburban villages where there is greater level of economic development and there are increasingly more industrial enterprises. The current pension or subsidy status is mainly a function of the presence of well-developed economy (as represented by our proxy variables RURALITY, and PRIORJOB). In terms of family support, our study shows it serves largely as a substitute for social support. Elderly not receiving pension support are more likely to recieve monetary support from their children. The implications of these findings are analyzed in the context of the socioeconomic and demographic transitions in China and alternative solutions to elder support are discussed.