Numerological preferences, timing of births and the long-term effect on schooling

  • Cheng Huang
  • Xiaojing Ma
  • Shiying ZhangEmail author
  • Qingguo Zhao
Original Paper


Cultural beliefs may affect demographic behaviors. According to traditional Chinese astrology, babies born on auspicious days will have good luck in their lifetime, whereas those born on inauspicious days will have bad luck. Using administrative data from birth certificates in Guangdong, China, we provide empirical evidence on the short-term effects of such numerological preferences. We find that approximately 3.9% extra births occur on auspicious days and 1.4% of births are avoided on inauspicious days. Additionally, there is a higher male/female sex ratio for births on auspicious days. Since such manipulation of the birthdate is typically performed through scheduled C-sections, C-section births increase significantly on auspicious days. Moreover, we use a second dataset to examine the long-term effect of numerological preferences and find that people born on auspicious days are more likely to attend college.


Numerological preferences Birthdate Timed births Chinese astrology 


I21 Z10 J13 D19 



We thank the Family Planning Research Institute of Guangdong Province for generously providing the data for this paper. We also thank the anonymous referees of the Journal of Population Economics for their comments and guidance. All errors are ours.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Economics and ManagementHarbin Institute of TechnologyShenzhenChina
  2. 2.Department of Global Health & Institute for International Economic PolicyGeorge Washington UniversityWashingtonUSA
  3. 3.Family Planning Research Institute of Guangdong Province and Family Planning Special Hospital of Guangdong ProvinceGuangzhouChina

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