New Study on China’s One-Child Policy Sparks Controversy

mother with baby sunset

A recent study published in the journal Demography in August has demographers’ tongues wagging. The study focuses on China’s controversial one-child policy, which the study claims averted between 360 to 520 million births, aiding global environmental efforts.

China’s one-child policy was in effect from 1980 to 2016. While Chinese officials have argued that the policy prevented around 400 million births, many scholars have disputed the number and claimed that the policy violated human rights.

The study was published by Daniel Goodkind, an analyst at the U.S. Census Bureau in Suitland, Maryland. Goodkind extrapolated from countries that had a moderate fertility decline and found that the fertility policies reduced China’s population by 360 to 520 million births.  Additionally, since birth-planning policies will have long lasting implications, he expects that the total number of avoided population could be 1 billion by 2060.

China’s Controversial One-Child Policy

China’s one-child policy has been a point of contention since its creation. Established by Deng Xiaoping in 1979, the policy was designed to limit population growth. The policy only applies to ethnic Han Chinese who live in urban areas. Fines and even forced abortions or sterilizations were used to enforce this policy.

Human rights activists have long decried the policy, pointing out the many problematic aspects. Under the policy, female infants have been known to be abandoned, neglected and even killed. Additionally, sex-selective abortion has been known to occur. Many scholars are angry at Goodkind for seemingly ignoring these abuses and have accused him of condoning the policy.

Problems With the Study

Zhongwei Zhao, a demographer at the Australian National University in Canberra, is one of many who is discrediting Goodkind’s paper.  He points out that the ages of women who are marrying and giving birth have increased since the mid-1990s, which has nothing to do with government policies.  By ignoring the effects of social change, he argues, Goodkind is not adequately addressing the factors that are influencing the fertility decline.

Others have criticized the paper for being immoral, as it could be used as a political tool that does not account for human rights violations.

Your Fertility

It is difficult to gain unbiased information on the effectiveness of China’s one-child policy, but we can at least be grateful that we live in a country where we can have the family we want.  As reproductive technology improves, you have more options than ever to build the family you desire.