Data Analysis Offers First Picture of the Impact of China’s Universal Two-Child Policy

Working closely with faculty at Peking University and scientists at the National Health Commission in China, NYU Wagner’s Professor Jan Blustein and other researchers have developed the first nationwide estimate of the impact of China’s universal two-child policy.

 The resulting research paper, published in The British Medical Journal (BMJ), found that there were more than 67  million births in China between 2014 and 2017.  The paper drew on two national databases assembled by thousands of health workers and officials across the nation's diverse geographies, cultures, and economic conditions.  (The process of assembling this “big dataset” is described in a companion piece on BMJ’s website.)

 The universal two-child policy was enacted in October, 2015, to address stagnant population growth, an aging population, and a shrinking workforce, targeting an estimated 90 million women of reproductive age who had a previous delivery (half of them over the age of 40).

According to the study, the policy was associated with an additional 5.4 million births during the first 18 months that it was in effect, largely driven by births to mothers who had already delivered one baby. The increase was large enough to forestall the advent of negative population growth predicted by many demographers, but will not make a sizable impact on China’s anticipated workforce shrinkage in some 30 years.

While the policy was also associated with an increase in births to older mothers, age 35 and above, the researchers found no significant increase in pre-term birth rates nationwide.

Dr. Blustein is Professor of Health Policy and Medicine at NYU Wagner. Her research focus is health service equality and public health, and she is also on the faculty of the NYU School of Medicine.


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