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The One-Child Policy and Household Savings in China


  • Keyu Jin

    (London School of Economics)

  • Nicolas Coeurdacier

    (SciencesPo Paris)


This paper analyzes the impact of the 'one child policy' in China on its household saving behavior. First, it develops a life-cycle model with endogenous fertility, intergenerational transfers and human capital accumulation. We show a macroeconomic and a microeconomic channel of a fall in fertility on raising aggregate household saving: at the macroeconomic level, the population composition shifts initially towards the middle-aged—the high savers of the economy. At the microeconomic level, (1) expenditures of children fall—despite higher education investment in each child—as quantity substitutes for quality; (2) middle-aged save additionally for retirement in anticipation of reduced transfers from their only child. Second, our quantitative model implies policy-induced changes in aggregate savings and age-saving profiles broadly consistent with estimates from Chinese household-level data. Third, an empirical study using the birth of twins as a source of exogenous increase in fertility is shown to support the micro-economic channels we highlight. Overall, our estimation suggests that the policy is able to account for 30% to 50% of the rise in household savings rate since its implementation in 1980.

Suggested Citation

  • Keyu Jin & Nicolas Coeurdacier, 2013. "The One-Child Policy and Household Savings in China," 2013 Meeting Papers 790, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  • Handle: RePEc:red:sed013:790

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Jonathan Heathcote & Fabrizio Perri, 2013. "The International Diversification Puzzle Is Not as Bad as You Think," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 121(6), pages 1108-1159.
    2. Esther Duflo, 2003. "Grandmothers and Granddaughters: Old-Age Pensions and Intrahousehold Allocation in South Africa," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 17(1), pages 1-25, June.
    3. Becker, Gary S & Lewis, H Gregg, 1973. "On the Interaction between the Quantity and Quality of Children," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 81(2), pages 279-288, Part II, .
    4. Charles Yuji Horioka & Junmin Wan, 2007. "The Determinants of Household Saving in China: A Dynamic Panel Analysis of Provincial Data," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 39(8), pages 2077-2096, December.
    5. Dennis Tao Yang & Junsen Zhang & Shaojie Zhou, 2012. "Why Are Saving Rates So High in China?," NBER Chapters,in: Capitalizing China, pages 249-278 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. N. Gregory Mankiw & David Romer & David N. Weil, 1992. "A Contribution to the Empirics of Economic Growth," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 107(2), pages 407-437.
    7. 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 227-240, January.
    8. Michele Boldrin & Larry E. Jones, 2002. "Mortality, Fertility, and Saving in a Malthusian Economy," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 5(4), pages 775-814, October.
    9. Barry Naughton, 2007. "The Chinese Economy: Transitions and Growth," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262640643, July.
    10. Bussière, Matthieu & Kalantzis, Yannick & Lafarguette, Romain & Sicular, Terry, 2013. "Understanding household savings in China: the role of the housing market and borrowing constraints," MPRA Paper 44611, University Library of Munich, Germany.
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    Cited by:

    1. Jingting Fan & Sebnem Kalemli-Ozcan, 2016. "Emergence of Asia: Reforms, Corporate Savings, and Global Imbalances," NBER Working Papers 22334, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Ayşe İmrohoroğlu & Kai Zhao, 2017. "The Chinese Saving Rate: Long-Term Care Risks, Family Insurance, and Demographics," Working papers 2017-17, University of Connecticut, Department of Economics.
    3. Curtis, Chadwick C. & Lugauer, Steven & Mark, Nelson C., 2017. "Demographics and aggregate household saving in Japan, China, and India," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 51(C), pages 175-191.
    4. repec:eee:jimfin:v:81:y:2018:i:c:p:88-115 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Howden, David & Zhou, Yang, 2014. "Unintended Consequences of China´s One-Child Policy," MPRA Paper 79607, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    6. Ayşe İmrohoroğlu & Kai Zhao, 2017. "Intergenerational Transfers and China’s Social Security Reform," Working papers 2017-18, University of Connecticut, Department of Economics.

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