Munich Personal RePEc Archive

Why Did China’s Population Grow So Quickly?

Howden, David and Zhou, Yang (2015): Why Did China’s Population Grow So Quickly? Published in: The Independent Review , Vol. 2, No. 20 (2015): pp. 227-248.


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By the 1970s, China’s communist government faced a looming resource constraint in “caring” for its nearly 1 billion citizens, necessitating a policy to alleviate the crippling aftermath of nearly 30 years of rapid population growth. The one-child policy of 1979 was the result, and it has since become heralded as an effective government policy to save humans from their lack of reproductive restraint. In this article we explain why population growth in China was so strong from 1949-79, and why the one-child policy was seen as the best solution. Under the leadership of Mao Zedong, the government promoted pro-natalist policies and remunerated families not according to their productivity but by the number of workers. Faced with general economic scarcity from the communist regime’s poor economic policies, parents pursued children as the sole means to avoid an otherwise bleak lifestyle.

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