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Impact of China's One-Child Policy on the Educational Attainment

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Education
Wordcount: 1955 words Published: 8th Feb 2020

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The topic of this article was to study the impact of China’s One-Child Policy on the educational attainment of teenagers. In January 1979, the Chinese government enacted a controversial One-Child Policy that severely limited a couple to have only one child. Since the implementation of the One-Child Policy, many academic articles had discussed the impact of the policy on family fertility, nutrition and health of children. However, little research had been done on its effect on children’s education. This study is important because it helps people get more attention to the positive impact of education level promotion of the One-Child Policy. Although China’s One-Child Policy has aroused great controversy, it was supported by the influential quantity-quality model proposed by Becker and Lewis (1973), which shows that the reduction of the number of children will lead to more resources being allocated to each child and then improve the average quality of children (Rosenzweig and Zhang, 2006).

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The empirical justice for the researchers can be found in the previous studies that are mentioned in this article. A survey of 1,465 children in order to examine only child and children’s academic achievements with siblings in urban and rural areas of Changchun by Poston Falbo (1990), a study of the effect on the presence of siblings in rural education by Brown and Park (2002), a study of education level and school graduation for a group of young people born before and after the birth of the One-Child Policy by Connery and Zheng (2003), and a survey of the comparison of the learning process on twins and one-child families by Rosenzweig and Zhang (2006) were all of great help to those who had studied the impact of the One-Child Policy on children’s academic performance over the years. However, due to the early discovery and the lack of new discoveries in recent years, the author re-studied China’s One-Child Policy in 2011. The hypothesis of this article is that the One-Child Policy had a positive effect on the growth of educational attainment over time. The independent variables are two generations born before and after the One-Child Policy, who are in similar age. The dependent variables include the education level of parents, the financial level of the family, the varying degrees of the One-Child Policy regulation in different communities.

In this study, the number of participants was 13,037, and they were between 11 and 21 years old at the time of the survey. The survey population covered more than 4,000 individuals from different socio-economic families in nine provinces, including Liaoning, Heilongjiang, Shandong, Henan, Hubei, Hunan, Guangxi, Guizhou and Jiangsu. In order to test the hypothesis that children born after the One-Child Policy are better educated, the author divided the sample into two groups: the pre- and post- One-Child Policy group. To better understand the impact of China’s One-Child Policy on educational achievement, the author used a Multistage Mixed Effect Model of educational achievement for each cohort, and then compared the impact of changes between the two cohorts, as it can identify and explain similarities or correlations between children from the same community. Moreover, in order to determine the accuracy of the experiment, the authors identified communities governed by varying degrees of the One-Child Policy regulation. The survey showed, on average, 18 percent of the sample lived in communities where all couples were allowed to have two children, and 34 percent lived in communities where couples were allowed to have a second child if the first child was a girl. However, it was worth noting that the One-Child Policy within the community varies significantly over time.

The preliminary analysis of the article was that some provinces, especially urban cities, may have better physical and financial support for children’s education. In this return, one would expect a richer, more urbanized province with higher levels of education. The results of the sample did show that rural communities were statistically less educated. Experimental evidence showed that the national economic situation was better after the One-Child Policy, and had been greatly improved. A higher proportion of the sample owned more property, cars, and lived in communities with improved equipment and conditions. According to the survey, after the One-Child Policy was enacted, the number of urban families with cars increased from 10% to 45%. A large number of people live on asphalt roads, rather than dirt roads, also increase from 17% to 56%. Thus, it can be seen that the standard of living of urban people has improved a lot since the promulgation of the One-Child Policy.

One of the main findings is that although children born after the One-Child Policy had a lower average age, they were generally more educated and received education longer, compared to the pre-policy group according to the study. The study shows that for children born after the One-Child Policy whose were at the average age of 14.47, the average time of education has reached 8.74 years. In other words, children born after the One-Child Policy, on average, attend school from the age of 5.7. For the children born before the One-Child Policy, the average age in the sample was 16.46 years old, and the average time of their education was 7.61 years, which means that they started learning from the age of 8.85 on average. By contrast, it was three years later to learn for children born before the One-Child Policy than those born after the One-Child Policy.

The finding is important because based on the survey, it did show that China’s One-Child Policy had a crucial and significant effect on children’s education achievement, and, more importantly, it had confirmed that China’s One-Child Policy did raise the education level of the children, also as slogan said: let more children get better education, so as to improve the well-being of the children. Moreover, as the author hypothesized, family wealth and parents’ education level are also important factors in determining children’s education level.

There are a lot of strengths in this study. When people more focused on the impact of the One-Child Policy on family fertility, nutrition and health, rather than the impact on children education, there was no doubt that this study attracted the attention of the public, let more people start to agree and approve the One-Child Policy, and let people pay more attention to the positive impact of education level promotion of the One-Child Policy. One main strength of this study is, methodologically, the author’s sample covered most regions and considered different cultures from different regions. The survey was conducted on both generations born before and after the One-Child Policy. Therefore, the results of the study were collected in an adequate way, making the findings more accurate. In addition, the author used a Multistage Mixed Effect Model, which was recognized by the scientific area, as the research method that was fair and rigorous.

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However, there still are some weaknesses in the study. Besides the One-Child Policy, the author should also consider the other national policies, because these policies will also have an impact on the education system. Some examples cited in the article, such as a study showed that there was no significant change in the academic performance of people with siblings and only child in rural and urban areas in 1973. However, the author ignored that the College Entrance Examination system in 1973 was not restored until 1977. Before the restoration of the College Entrance Examination system, the education in rural and urban areas were both not good. Therefore, using this example to illustrate the better education of an only child was not very convincing. Another weakness of the study was that, from the perspective of methodology, although the author compared the learning level of children from the poor, well-off, middle class and upper-class families to study the influence of parents’ financial status on children’s learning, the variable of “parents’ education level” was not controlled. Similarly, the authors did not control the variable of “family wealth status” when looking at the educational attainment of children living in higher-education households. The author did not control these variables, which making this part of the experiment somewhat inaccurate. The last weakness was that it would be mistakenly assumed that each child has similar backgrounds, social values, life experience and community resources that influence their educational goals and propensities. Although the author divided the children into different groups according to the community, there was not at all unreasonable to assume that there are all similarities when the children are from the same community. The author still needed to control the probability of variables.

The next step to prove the hypothesis and identify how the One-Child Policy has a continuous effect on children education is to compare the One-Child Policy to the Two-Children Policy. China has implemented a Two-Children Policy since 2013. Now that six years have passed, authors should analyze and compare these two policies on education and living standards based on the current situation. The next study should look at the academic and financial performance of children in one-child families and those with two children. The current study compared the educational and financial levels of the two generations born before and after the One-Child Policy, and concluded that the only child has greatly improved the educational level of Chinese children. In the next step, the only way to further the research is to compare the One-Child Policy with the Two-Children Policy. At present, there is still a majority of the public who are skeptical of the Two-Children Policy, and most people still support the One-Child Policy. But unlike the current study, families with two children tend to have higher family expenses. Thus, the variable in the future study should be changed to “family income and expenditure”.  Although the specific hypothesis needs to be explored and more arguments need to be confirmed gradually in the future, there is still plenty of room for the authors to discover.


  • Becker, Gary 5. and Lewis, H.G. (1973), On the Interaction Between the Quantity and Quality of Children, Journal of Political Economy, 81(2), 5279-5288.
  • Brown, Philip H. and Park, Albert (2002), Education and poverty in rural China, Economic of Education Review, 21(2002), 523-541.
  • Connelly, Rachel and Zheng, Zhenzhen (2003), Determinants of school enrollment and completion of 10 to 18 year olds in China, Economics of Education Review, 22: 379-388.
  • Poston, Dudley L. and Falbo, Toni (1990), Academic Performance and Personality Traits
  • of Chinese Children: “Onlies” versus Others, American Journal of Sociology, 96(2), 433-451.
  • Rosenzweig, Mark R. and Zhang, [unsen (2006), Do Population Control Policies Induce More Human Capital Investment? Twins, Birthweight, and China’s ‘One-Child’ Policy. IZA Discussion Paper No. 2082 Yale University Economic Growth Center Discussion Paper No. 933.


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