This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 13th (it will be out in January 2020), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Monday, March 18, 2013

Will China Lift its One-Child Policy?

There has been enormous global speculation over the past few months that, with a change in leadership in China, there might also be a change in the One-Child Policy. Most of the talk about this, however, like in this week's Economist, is in terms of the idea that the Chinese economy needs more kids so that someone can pay for the graying population. Only a small fraction is about the human-rights issues associated with forcing women to have an abortion (which to me is as abhorrent as not allowing a woman to have one if she wishes). I have pointed out for years that China's birth rate was already in steep decline before the One-Child Policy was implemented and that Taiwan--populated heavily by exiles from the mainland--almost exactly mirrored the mainland's fertility decline on its own, without any restrictive measures. Indeed, elsewhere in East Asia--Japan and South Korea are prime examples--the birth rate is very low without the government having had to regulate people's reproductive lives.

So, I understand why we all should wish that the Chinese government would drop the One-Child Policy. What I understand less is why people in the West think that it would be good for China's birth rate to rise. World Bank data show that 30 percent of China's population is living on less than $2/day. To be sure, that's lower than India, where the number is 69 percent, but it is six times higher than the 5 percent in Mexico. China may have a lot of billionaires, but it also has extraordinarily high income inequality, and it is hard to see how more babies will improve that situation.

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