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The Effect of the One-Child Policy on Fertility in China: Identification Based on the Differences-in-Differences

  • Hongbin Li
  • Junsen Zhang
  • Yi Zhu

This paper measures the effect of China's one-child policy on fertility by exploring the natural experiment that has been created by China's unique affirmative birth control policy, which is possibly the largest social experiment in human history. Because the one-child policy only applied to Han Chinese, but not to ethnic minorities, we construct a differences-in-differences estimator to identify the effect of the policy on fertility. Such a natural experiment is a rare opportunity, whether for the analysis of the effect on fertility or for the analysis of economics in general. Using two rounds of the Chinese Population Census, we find that the one-child policy has had a large effect on fertility. The average effect on the post-treatment cohorts on the probability of having a second child is as large as -11 percentage points. We also find that the magnitude is larger in urban areas and for more educated women. Our robustness tests suggest that our differences-in-differences estimates of the effect of the one-child policy are not very likely to be driven by other policy or socio-economic changes that have affected the Han and the minorities differently.

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Paper provided by Chinese University of Hong Kong, Department of Economics in its series Discussion Papers with number 00019.

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Date of creation: Aug 2005
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Handle: RePEc:chk:cuhkdc:00019
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  1. Anrudh Jain, 1981. "The effect of female education on fertility: A simple explanation," Demography, Springer, vol. 18(4), pages 577-595, November.
  2. Behrman, Jere R & Wolfe, Barbara L, 1984. "A More General Approach to Fertility Determination in a Developing Country: The Importance of Biological Supply Considerations, Endogenous Tastes and Unperceived Jointness," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 51(23), pages 319-39, August.
  3. Angrist, Joshua D & Evans, William N, 1998. "Children and Their Parents' Labor Supply: Evidence from Exogenous Variation in Family Size," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(3), pages 450-77, June.
  4. Zhang, Junsen & Spencer, Byron G, 1992. "Who Signs China's One-Child Certificate, and Why?," Journal of Population Economics, Springer, vol. 5(3), pages 203-14, August.
  5. Leslie A. Whittington & James Alm & H. Elizabeth Peters, . "Fertility and the Personal Exemption: Implicit Pronatalist Policy in the United States," University of Chicago - Population Research Center 89-6, Chicago - Population Research Center.
  6. Rosenzweig, Mark R & Schultz, T Paul, 1985. "The Demand for and Supply of Births: Fertility and Its Life Cycle Consequences," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 75(5), pages 992-1015, December.
  7. Zhang, Junsen, 1994. "Socioeconomic Determinants of Fertility in Hebei Province, China: An Application of the Sequential Logit Model," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 43(1), pages 67-90, October.
  8. Ahn, Namkee, 1994. "Effects of the One-Child Family Policy on Second and Third Births in Hebei, Shaanxi and Shanghai," Journal of Population Economics, Springer, vol. 7(1), pages 63-78.
  9. Dennis Tao Yang & Marjorie McElroy, 2000. "Carrots and Sticks: Fertility Effects of China's Population Policies," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(2), pages 389-392, May.
  10. Birdsall, Nancy, 1988. "Economic approaches to population growth," Handbook of Development Economics, in: Hollis Chenery & T.N. Srinivasan (ed.), Handbook of Development Economics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 12, pages 477-542 Elsevier.
  11. Joshua D. Angrist & Alan B. Krueger, 1990. "Does Compulsory School Attendance Affect Schooling and Earnings?," NBER Working Papers 3572, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Jere R. Behrman & Mark R. Rosenzweig, 2004. "Returns to Birthweight," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 86(2), pages 586-601, May.
  13. Rosenzweig, Mark R & Wolpin, Kenneth I, 1980. "Testing the Quantity-Quality Fertility Model: The Use of Twins as a Natural Experiment," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 48(1), pages 227-40, January.
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