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Sex Ratios and Crime: Evidence from China’s One-Child Policy

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Listed:
  • Edlund, Lena

    (Columbia University)

  • Li, Hongbin

    (Stanford University)

  • Yi, Junjian

    (Peking University)

  • Zhang, Junsen

    (Chinese University of Hong Kong)

Abstract

Sex ratios (males to females) rose markedly in China in the last two decades, and crime rates nearly doubled. This paper examines whether the two are causally linked. High sex ratios imply fewer married men, and marriage has been conjectured to be a socializing force. Our paper exploits the quasi-natural experiment generated by the Chinese one-child policy, a policy which is widely held to be behind the surplus of sons. While a national policy, its implementation was local. We show that the provincial level implementation was unrelated to contemporaneous economic characteristics of the province. Instead, individual characteristics of the provincial party secretary influenced the timing. Moreover, leaders were systematically rotated such that 10 years on, leader characteristics were serially uncorrelated. Using annual province-level data for the period 1988-2004, we show that a 0.01 increase in the sex ratio raised violent and property crime rates by some 3%, suggesting that the rise in excess males may account for up to one-seventh of the overall rise in crime.

Suggested Citation

  • Edlund, Lena & Li, Hongbin & Yi, Junjian & Zhang, Junsen, 2007. "Sex Ratios and Crime: Evidence from China’s One-Child Policy," IZA Discussion Papers 3214, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp3214
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    1. Las mujeres desaparecidas
      by Luis Abenza in Politikon on 2014-11-25 14:01:10

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    Cited by:

    1. Choukhmane, Taha & Coeurdacier, Nicolas & Jin, Keyu, 2013. "The One-Child Policy and Household Savings," CEPR Discussion Papers 9688, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    2. Sanders, Nicholas J. & Stoecker, Charles, 2015. "Where have all the young men gone? Using sex ratios to measure fetal death rates," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 41(C), pages 30-45.
    3. Sekhri, Sheetal & Storeygard, Adam, 2014. "Dowry deaths: Response to weather variability in India," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 111(C), pages 212-223.
    4. Zhang, Chuanchuan, 2011. "Children, support in old age and social insurance in rural China," MPRA Paper 37798, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    5. Lixing Li & Xiaoyu Wu, 2011. "Gender of Children, Bargaining Power, and Intrahousehold Resource Allocation in China," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 46(2), pages 295-316.
    6. Michael Svarer, 2011. "Crime and partnerships," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 9(3), pages 307-325, September.
    7. Shang-Jin Wei & Xiaobo Zhang, 2011. "Sex Ratios, Entrepreneurship, and Economic Growth in the People's Republic of China," NBER Working Papers 16800, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Lisa Cameron & Xin Meng & Dandan Zhang, 2019. "China's Sex Ratio and Crime: Behavioural Change or Financial Necessity?," The Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 129(618), pages 790-820.
    9. Shang-Jin Wei & Xiaobo Zhang, 2011. "The Competitive Saving Motive: Evidence from Rising Sex Ratios and Savings Rates in China," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 119(3), pages 511-564.
    10. S Anukriti & Sonia Bhalotra & Eddy H F Tam, 2022. "On the Quantity and Quality of Girls: Fertility, Parental Investments and Mortality [Are there missing girls in the United States? Evidence from birth data]," The Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 132(641), pages 1-36.
    11. Shang-Jin Wei & Xiaobo Zhang & Yin Liu, 2012. "Status Competition and Housing Prices," NBER Working Papers 18000, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    12. Jane Golley & Rod Tyers, 2012. "China's Gender Imbalance and its Economic Performance," Economics Discussion / Working Papers 12-10, The University of Western Australia, Department of Economics.
    13. Lakshmi Iyer & Anandi Mani & Prachi Mishra & Petia Topalova, 2012. "The Power of Political Voice: Women's Political Representation and Crime in India," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 4(4), pages 165-193, October.
    14. Lakshmi Iyer & Anandi Mani & Prachi Mishra & Petia Topalova, 2012. "The Power of Political Voice: Women's Political Representation and Crime in India," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 4(4), pages 165-193, October.
    15. Russell Smyth & Ingrid Nielsen & Qingguo Zhai, 2010. "Personal Well-being in Urban China," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 95(2), pages 231-251, January.
    16. Kang, Lili & Peng, Fei, 2012. "Siblings, public facilities and education returns in China," MPRA Paper 38922, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    17. Claus C Pörtner, 2010. "Sex Selective Abortions, Fertility and Birth Spacing," Working Papers UWEC-2010-04-R, University of Washington, Department of Economics, revised Aug 2010.
    18. Nandi, Arindam & Deolalikar, Anil B., 2013. "Does a legal ban on sex-selective abortions improve child sex ratios? Evidence from a policy change in India," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 103(C), pages 216-228.
    19. repec:pri:crcwel:wp06-35-ff is not listed on IDEAS
    20. Anukriti, S & Bhalotra, Sonia R. & Tam, Hiu, 2016. "On the Quantity and Quality of Girls: New Evidence on Abortion, Fertility, and Parental Investments," IZA Discussion Papers 10271, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    21. Yuyu Chen & Hongbin Li & Lingsheng Meng, 2013. "Prenatal Sex Selection and Missing Girls in China: Evidence from the Diffusion of Diagnostic Ultrasound," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 48(1), pages 36-70.
    22. Nils-Petter Lagerlöf, 2010. "Pacifying monogamy," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 15(3), pages 235-262, September.
    23. Chang, Simon & Zhang, Xiaobo, 2012. "The Economic Consequences of Excess Men: Evidence from a Natural Experiment in Taiwan:," IFPRI discussion papers 1203, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    male-biased sex ratios; crime; one-child policy; China;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • J12 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Marriage; Marital Dissolution; Family Structure
    • J13 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth
    • K42 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - Illegal Behavior and the Enforcement of Law

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