Are Only Children More Depressed?: Evidence from China’s One Child Policy

Albert Park, Professor of Economics, Hong Kong University of Science & Technology
| CSCC Conference Room, Fisher-Bennett 345

This paper examines the causal effect of growing up as an only child on subjective well-being outcomes, with the latter measured by elevated depressive symptoms and self-rated happiness. Considering the endogeneity issue of fertility choice within family, we take advantage of the exogenous fertility shock of China’s One-Child Policy, exploiting differences in enforcement of the policy across province and different influence of the policy on different parental cohorts. Since the counterfactual of singletons are first-borns with successive siblings, we pay particular attention to the first-born sample. Our results show that being an only child significantly decreases one’s subjective well-being, and more intensive exposure to the One-Child Policy makes individuals more depressed and less happy. Interestingly, impacts of the One Child Policy on outcomes such as education, work status, and health are not statistically significant.

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