Journal of Population Economics

, Volume 25, Issue 4, pp 1341–1364 | Cite as

Family size and maternal health: evidence from the One-Child policy in China

  • Xiaoyu Wu
  • Lixing LiEmail author
Original Paper


In this paper, we examine the impact of family size on maternal health outcomes by exploiting the tremendous change in family size under the One-Child policy in China. Using data from the China Health and Nutrition Survey 1993–2006, we find that mothers with fewer children have a higher calorie intake and a lower probability of being underweight and having low blood pressure; meanwhile, they have a higher probability of being overweight. This would occur if a smaller family size increases the food consumption of mothers, leading underweight women to attain a normal weight and normal weight women becoming overweight. Robust tests are performed to provide evidence on the hypothesis that the tradeoff between children’s quantity and mother’s “quality” is through a budget constraint mechanism, that is, having more children decreases the resource allocated to mothers and affects their health outcomes.


Maternal health Quantity–quality tradeoff One-Child policy 

JEL Classification

O15 J13 I10 



We would like to thank Seth Sanders, Christopher McKelvey, Peter Murrell, Ginger Jin, Judy Hellerstein, William Evans, John Iceland, Melissa Kearney, Hongbin Li, seminar participants at University of Maryland, U.S. Census Bureau Center for Economic Studies, 2006 CES Shanghai Conference, 2006 Far-Eastern Meeting of the Econometric Society at Beijing, and 2008 Five Star Economic Forum at Renmin University of China, and two anonymous referees for helpful comments. Financial support from the Ministry of Education, China (10YJC790206) is gratefully acknowledged.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.China Academy of Public Finance and Public PolicyCentral University of Finance and EconomicsBeijingChina
  2. 2.China Center for Economic Research, National School of DevelopmentPeking UniversityBeijingChina

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