Esther Duflo: Too Many Boys…

Written by Esther Duflo, Professor of Economics at MIT, from VoxEU.org:

China is gradually getting rid of the vestiges of its communist past. But the demographic policy of the 1980s and 1990s planted a time bomb, and its effects are just starting to be felt.

Its best-known aspect is the one-child policy, first put in place in 1978 and still in practice, though in a more relaxed form. Today, a couple made up of two only-children are allowed to have two children. In rural regions, a couple whose first child is a girl is normally authorised to have a second. But in the ‘80s and ‘90s, the one-child policy was strictly applied, albeit not uniformly across regions. Parents were penalised for births “outside quota”. They were fined and were financially responsible for the education and health-care of “extra” children.

Envisioned by Deng Xiaoping, this aggressive fertility control strategy marked a rupture with the Mao period, which had launched the slogan “more people, more power”. Xiaoping considered fertility control essential to getting a handle on the economy, the foundation of China’s success.

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