Job Market Paper
Fertility After China's More-than-One-Child Policy
The One-Child Policy is often incorrectly perceived as an authoritarian mandate of fertility limits by a centralized government. In reality, the policy was incentive-based. Every woman and her partner were allowed to have more than one child—if they paid a price. In this paper, I construct a novel dataset combining fertility histories with individually tailored policy-dictated prices. Exploiting price variation across each woman’s life cycle and across demographic groups and provinces, I document that the policy diminished average completed fertility by 0.3 children per woman; 0.6 when the first child was a girl and virtually zero when the first child was a boy. The policy generated 18% of the observed decrease in average completed fertility from 1979 to 2000. Institutional changes in the organization of agriculture and factors describing economic growth are more important than the policy in explaining the decrease. I show that the effect of the policy remained stable from 2000 to 2010 and argue that the introduction of a nationally uniform Two-Child Policy in 2015 will have little effect on fertility.