China’s One-Child Policy


This morning I came across an interesting article on the effects of China’s one-child policy.

Since 1978, Beijing has instituted a one-child policy. The policy was set forth to encourage late marrying and late childbearing, allowing families in the densely populated cities to have one child, and those in the more rural areas to have two children. Because male children are considered more valuable in China than their female counterparts, the act of infanticide became a somewhat common practice. Now, with the onset of technology like the ultrasound and amniocentesis, sex-selective abortions have become the alternative to being stuck with a healthy baby girl.

According to the article, the normal sex ratio is about 105 males for every 100 females. In China the numbers are less equal and more startling – with the highest deviations (in the Guangdong and Hainan region) at 130 male babies for every 100 females.

This imbalance is creating another nasty effect – a rise of a commercial sex trade. Steven Mosher, President of the Population Research Institute here in Washington says, “Women are trafficked from North Korea, Burma and Vietnam and sold into sexual slavery or to the highest bidder.”

Even with the estimated 60 million female babies “missing” in China and a rise of a commercial sex trade the Chinese government had continued to uphold the one-child policy and it will do so until at least 2050. Mosher believes that continuing with this policy will end in disaster: “The answer is economic development, not restricting the amount of people.”

While I happen to agree with Mosher, I find the most interesting view in this article is from Adam Jones, the Executive Director of Gendercide Watch. He believes that with a large gender disparity, surviving women will have greater market value, hence resulting in families choosing to have the more economically valuable female babies, thus reducing the rate of infanticide and abortion.

Once again, a problem that most would consider non-economic can be solved (albeit not entirely without a change in policy) with the solutions created by the self-correcting market.