The One-Child Policy and Household Savings in China
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-agedâ€”the high savers of the economy. At the microeconomic level, (1) expenditures of children fallâ€”despite higher education investment in each childâ€”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.
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