Volume 42 - Article 35 | Pages 985–1038 Author has provided data and code for replicating results

The power of the government: China's Family Planning Leading Group and the fertility decline of the 1970s

By Yi Chen, Yingfei Huang

Print this page  Facebook  Twitter


Date received:14 Feb 2019
Date published:05 Jun 2020
Word count:8577
Keywords:China, family planning, fertility rates, Northern Ireland
Additional files:readme.42-35 (text file, 9 kB)
 demographic-research.42-35 (zip file, 717 kB)


Background: China introduced its world-famous One-Child Policy in 1979. However, its fertility appears to have declined even faster in the early 1970s than it did after 1979. The fertility rate declined by three children, from 5.7 in 1969 to 2.7 in 1978.

Objective: What accounts for such a rapid decline in fertility rate during the 1970s? In this study, we highlight the importance of the Family Planning Leading Group (FPLG) in understanding China’s fertility decline since the early 1970s.

Methods: From 1969 to 1975, provinces gradually established agencies of the FPLG to implement family planning policies. We construct a difference-in-difference (DID) model to estimate the policy effect by exploiting the provincial variation in establishment years. We also develop a measure of policy exposure based on the province and the mother’s birth cohort that is applicable to many publicly available household-level data.

Conclusions: Our DID model explains about half of China’s total fertility rate decline from 5.7 in 1969 to 2.7 in 1978. Additionally, despite its simple construction, our proposed policy measure aptly explains China’s rapid decline in family sizes.

Contribution: We provide simple and practical approaches that characterize the causal effect of China’s family planning policies during the early 1970s. Our approaches can be easily implemented on province-year panel data and typical household surveys.

Author's Affiliation

Yi Chen - Jinan University, China [Email]
Yingfei Huang - Xi'an Jiaotong University, China [Email]

Most recent similar articles in Demographic Research

» The role of premarital cohabitation in the timing of first birth in China
Volume 45 - Article 8    | Keywords: China

» A potential new pattern of pathway to adulthood is emerging in China
Volume 44 - Article 42    | Keywords: China

» Recent trends in the Chinese family: National estimates from 1990 to 2010
Volume 44 - Article 25    | Keywords: China

» The mixed blessing of living together or close by: Parent–child relationship quality and life satisfaction of older adults in China
Volume 44 - Article 24    | Keywords: China

» Family status and women’s career mobility during urban China’s economic transition
Volume 44 - Article 8    | Keywords: China


»Volume 42





Similar Articles



Jump to Article

Volume Page
Volume Article ID