Less Is More: The One-Child Policy and Adult Outcomes of Chinese Only Children

Fangqi Wen , Nuffield College, University of Oxford

Existing research on sibship size effect largely focuses on children’s outcomes, especially about their intellectual development and early educational attainment. In this study, I compare adult outcomes between Chinese only children and individuals with siblings by emphasizing the role of the One-Child Policy. I hypothesize that the trade-off between child quantity and quality will persist into adulthood. Using various statistical methods that account for both observed and unobserved differences between only children and non-only children, I provide robust empirical evidence from a nationally representative survey the China Family Panel Studies. Contrary to the public perception, even under the aggressive One-Child Policy, only children remain a minority group in contemporary China. Compared to the general population, Chinese only children are better-off in terms of completed level of education, income, wealth, and marriage outcomes. They turn out to be a relatively small and privileged group in society. At the population level, the One-Child Policy has increased the proportion of college degree holders, especially among people of urban origin.

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 Presented in Session 122. Social Inequality and Fertility