Fertility, Gender Preference, the Birth Planning Policy and Life Satisfaction in China

Published in: Journal of Population Research, Volume 35, Issue 1 (March 2018), Pages 23-40. doi: 10.1007/s12546-018-9199-6

Posted on RAND.org on March 14, 2018

by James P. Smith, Xiaoyan Lei, Yan Shen, Guangsu Zhou

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Using data from China Family Panel Studies 2010, we evaluate the role of the Birth Planning Policy (BPP) in altering decisions to have another child by birth parity, and the relationship of life satisfaction with the gender structure of the children of Chinese residents. We find strong positive effects of the BPP on the decision of having an additional child for Chinese residents, particularly if the previous children were girls. In spite of strong son preference in fertility behaviour, residents whose children are all daughters are found to be more satisfied with their lives than with other gender structures. The empirical findings support the view that daughters are more helpful in providing assistance to parents and in mitigating family conflicts hence increasing life satisfaction, while son preferences may be pursued reasons of lineage and hence do not result in more satisfied lives. We also find evidence that the BPP penalty might be a reason why having more sons could reduce life satisfaction.

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