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Soc Sci Med. 2001 Mar;52(5):745-61.

China's one-child policy: the economic choices and consequences faced by pregnant women.

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University of North Carolina, Department of Health Policy and Administration, School of Public Health, Chapel Hill 27514, USA.


This paper addresses the important issue of the effect of China's one-child policy on prenatal and obstetric care utilization. The paper provides the first detailed empirical approach to this question, exploiting a unique high quality household survey. China officially codified a set of rules and regulations in 1979 governing the approved size of Chinese families, commonly known as the one-child policy. The policy imposed economic and social costs on families failing to adhere to the family size limits. In particular, the policy raised the price of obstetric medical services for unapproved pregnancies in comparison to approved pregnancies and imposed fines on families with unapproved births. Using data from an eight-province longitudinal household survey (The China Health and Nutrition Survey), we investigate whether or not the one-child policy's financial penalties were associated with the avoidance of obstetric care by pregnant Chinese women with unapproved pregnancies. The one-child policy variables of particular interest were a dichotomous measure of the approval status of the pregnancy, a continuous measure of the fine imposed upon families with unapproved births, and a continuous measure of the prices of prenatal care and delivery services net of any subsidy available for approved births. The results partially confirm the hypotheses that the one-child policy's economic and social costs caused women to forego seeking modern obstetric care services. The fine was found to be a significant deterrent to the utilization of prenatal care. Additionally, the unapproved-status of a pregnancy was strongly negatively associated with "the use of obstetric care. However, higher prices were not consistently found to be a significant deterrent to the use of obstetric care.

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