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Effects of Vietnam’s two-child policy on fertility, son preference, and female labor supply

Abstract

In 1988, facing a total fertility rate of over four births per woman, the Vietnamese government introduced a new policy that required parents to have no more than two children. Using data from the Vietnam Population and Housing Censuses from 1989, 1999, and 2009, I apply a differences-in-differences framework to assess the effects of this policy on family size, son preference, and maternal employment. I find that the policy decreased the probability that a woman has more than two children by 15 percentage points for younger women and by 7 percentage points for middle-aged women. The policy reduced the average number of living children by 0.2 births per woman. Low-education women and women in rural areas were more affected by the policy. The policy had no effects on mothers’ age at first birth and gender of mothers’ last birth. The reduction in fertility caused by the policy was associated with a 1.2 percentage point decrease in the proportion of sons in each family. The policy increased maternal employment by 1.3 percentage points. Instrumental variables estimates of the effects of fertility on maternal employment and child education suggest a negative relationship between the number of children and female labor supply and a trade-off between child quantity and child quality in Vietnam.

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Notes

  1. Family planning in India is usually criticized for being unsystematic and ineffective (Visaria et al. 1999; Muttreja and Singh 2018).

  2. These features of the policy were not equally enforced as the restriction to have no more than two children since the government did not impose punishments or fines on violating these requirements.

  3. Priebe (2010) examines the effect of fertility on maternal employment in Indonesia and documents that less educated women and women in rural areas were more responsive to the presence of children.

  4. Caceres-Delpiano (2012) investigates the impact of children on maternal employment in 40 developing countries and finds that the impact of children is stronger among high-educated mothers and mothers in urban areas.

  5. Access to the Vietnam Population and Housing Census from 1979 is not publicly available. Thus, I do not use the 1979 census in this study.

  6. Appendix Table 10 shows the fraction of mothers that still have all of their children living at home across three survey years.

  7. The estimates of the effect of the policy on family size for subsample are shown in Appendix Figure 11.

  8. I also show summary statistics for women of both ethnic groups and by education and urban/rural status separately in Appendix Tables 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16.

  9. I try different age bins (age 10–19, 20–29, 30–39, 40–49) rather than the quadratic in the probability of having more than two children equation and obtain very similar results.

  10. The Vietnam Population and Housing Censuses have no information on working hours. The Censuses have information on whether an individual works for salary or not. However, more than 50% of this information are missing in the data. Thus, I could not examine the effects of the policy on these outcomes.

  11. Coefficients of interaction terms in Fig. 1 are also shown in Appendix Table 17.

  12. I show coefficients of interactions between dummy variables for women’s age in 1989 and ethnic majority in the fertility equation for women with less than primary education in Appendix Figure 7 and for women with at least primary education in Appendix Figure 8.

  13. If the policy has an impact on educational attainment, then women with less than primary education may obtain more education and thus have at least primary education.

  14. I show coefficients of interactions in having more than 2 children equation for women in rural areas in Appendix Figure 9 and for women in urban areas in Appendix Figure 10.

  15. I show coefficients of the interactions in the mothers’ age at first birth equation in Appendix Table 18.

  16. Coefficients of interactions in the birth spacing equation are shown in Appendix Table 19.

  17. Coefficients of interactions in the proportion of sons in each family equation are shown in Appendix Table 20.

  18. Coefficients of these interactions are displayed in Appendix Table 21.

  19. Coefficients of interaction terms in Figure 6 are also presented in Appendix Table 22.

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Acknowledgments

I would like to thank Robert Kaestner, Ben Ost, Darren Lubotsky, Javaeria Qureshi, Neeraj Kaushal, and participants in presentations at the University of Illinois at Chicago, the Illinois Economics Association, the Midwest Economics Association, the Southern Economic Association, and the ASSA annual meetings for their valuable suggestions. I also thank three anonymous referees and the editors for their helpful comments. I thank Minnesota Population Center – IPUMS International – for giving me access to the data and General Statistics Office Vietnam for originally producing the data. All errors are mine.

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Appendix

Appendix

Fig. 7
figure 7

Estimated coefficients of interactions between dummy variables for women’s age in 1989 and ethnic majority in model of having more than two children, subsample of women with less than primary education

Fig. 8
figure 8

Estimated coefficients of interactions between dummy variables for women’s age in 1989 and ethnic majority in model of having more than two children, subsample of women with at least primary education

Fig. 9
figure 9

Estimated coefficients of interactions between dummy variables for women’s age in 1989 and ethnic majority in model of having more than two children, subsample of women in rural areas

Fig. 10
figure 10

Estimated coefficients of interactions between dummy variables for women’s age in 1989 and ethnic majority in model of having more than two children, subsample of women in urban areas

Fig. 11
figure 11

Estimated coefficients of interactions between dummy variables for women’s age in 1989 and ethnic majority in model of having more than two children, subsample

Table 10 Fractions of mothers that still have all of their children living at home
Table 11 Summary statistics for full sample of women’s birth cohorts 1940–1979: ethnic majority versus ethnic minority
Table 12 Summary statistics for subsample of women’s birth cohorts 1940–1979: ethnic majority versus ethnic minority
Table 13 Summary statistics for subsample of women with less than primary education of birth cohorts 1940–1979: ethnic majority versus ethnic minority
Table 14 Summary statistics for subsample of women with at least primary education of birth cohorts 1940–1979: ethnic majority versus ethnic minority
Table 15 Summary statistics for subsample of women in urban areas of birth cohorts 1940–1979: ethnic majority versus ethnic minority
Table 16 Summary statistics for subsample of women in rural areas of birth cohorts 1940–1979: ethnic majority versus ethnic minority
Table 17 The estimates of the effect of the two-child policy on the probability of having more than 2 children – results from full sample
Table 18 The estimates of the effect of the two-child policy on mothers’ age at first birth – results from subsample
Table 19 The estimates of the effect of the policy on mothers’ birth spacing – results from subsample
Table 20 The estimates of the effect of the two-child policy on proportion of sons in each family – results from subsample
Table 21 The estimates of the effect of the policy on gender of last birth – results from subsample
Table 22 The estimates of the effect of the policy on maternal employment – results from full sample
Table 23 The effect of the two-child policy on family size with further controls
Table 24 The effect of the two-child policy on proportion of sons in each family and maternal employment with further controls
Table 25 The estimates of the effect of the two-child policy on other household outcomes

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Ngo, A.P. Effects of Vietnam’s two-child policy on fertility, son preference, and female labor supply. J Popul Econ 33, 751–794 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00148-019-00766-1

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Keywords

  • Two-child policy
  • Fertility
  • Son preference
  • Female labor supply
  • Child quality
  • Child quantity

JEL classification

  • J13
  • J18
  • J21