Journal of Family and Economic Issues

, Volume 33, Issue 1, pp 41–52 | Cite as

The One-Child Policy and Gender Equality in Education in China: Evidence from Household Data

  • Ming-Hsuan LeeEmail author
Original Paper


This paper uses individual-level data from the China Health and Nutrition Survey and examines the impact of the one-child policy on gender equality in education in China. The results showed children in one-child households enjoyed significantly improved opportunities for education compared to children inside multiple-child households. The improvement for girls was larger than that of boys. In addition, we found no difference in years of schooling between only-child boys and only-child girls, whereas the gap between boys and girls inside multiple-child households remained significant. In particular, years of schooling for girls having male sibling(s) were 0.62 years lower than that of girls having female sibling(s). These findings suggest the one-child policy inadvertently contributed to greater educational gender equality in China.


Gender equality in education One child policy Son preference 


  1. Bian, J. (1996). Parental monetary investments in children: a focus on China. Journal of Family and Economic Issues, 17(1), 113–139.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Cai, W., Zhou, X., & Li, Q. (1991). An analysis of social factors affecting abortion in China. In fertility in China: Proceedings of the international seminar on China’s in-depth fertility survey, Beijing, February 13–17, 1990. Voorburg: International Statistical Institute.Google Scholar
  3. Eaton, J. S. (1998). Gender issues in transitional China. Multicultural Education, 6(2), 32–35.Google Scholar
  4. Feng, X. (1992). Zhongguo De Dusheng Zinu Tamende Jiating, Jiaoyu He Weilai. Beijing: Social Science Academic Press (China).Google Scholar
  5. Fong, V. (2002). China’s one-child policy and the empowerment of urban daughters. American Anthropologist, 104(4), 1098–1109.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Guo, F., & Choe, M. (1991). The trends of marital fertility, second and third birth in six provinces of China, 1966–1987: Findings from the in-depth fertility survey. In fertility in China: Proceedings of the international seminar on China’s in-depth fertility survey, Beijing, February 13–17, 1990 (pp. 263–272). Voorburg, the Netherlands: International Statistical Institute.Google Scholar
  7. Hall, C. (1997). Daughters of the dragon: Women’s lives in contemporary China. London: Scarlet Press.Google Scholar
  8. Hannum, E., Kong, P., & Zhang, Y. (2009). Family sources of educational gender inequality in rural China: a critical assessment. International Journal of Educational Development, 29(5), 474–486.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Honig, E., & Hershatter, G. (1988). Personal voices: Chinese women in the 1980’s. Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Lee, M. H. (2011). Schooling and Industrialization in China: Gender Differences in School Enrollment (Working paper). Kaohsiung, Taiwan: National Sun Yat-sen University, Department of Political Economy.Google Scholar
  11. Milwertz, C. N. (1997). Accepting population control: Urban Chinese women and the one-child family policy. Richmond: Curzon.Google Scholar
  12. Tsui, M., & Rich, L. (2002). The only child and educational opportunity for girls in urban China. Gender & Society, 16(1), 74–92.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Veeck, A., Flurry, L. A., & Jiang, N. (2003). Equal dreams: the one child policy and the consumption of education in urban China. Consumption, Markets and Culture, 6(1), 81–94.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Wang, F. (1996). A decade of the one child policy: Achievements and implications. In A. Goldstein & F. Wang (Eds.), China: The many facets of demographic change (pp. 96–116). Boulder: Westview.Google Scholar
  15. Xi, M. (1999). Market confronts educational reform. Beijing Review, 42(1), 21–22.Google Scholar
  16. Zhang, U., & Chen, C. (1998). The number of only-childs under the Family Planning Policy in China. In National population and Family Planning Commission of China (Ed.), Internal Materials. Beijing.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political EconomyNational Sun Yat-sen UniversityKaohsiung CityTaiwan

Personalised recommendations