China Ends One-Child Policy

A blog about business and economics.
Nov. 15 2013 8:14 AM

China Ends One-Child Policy

187837244
Do I really want a little brother?

Photo by WANG ZHAO/AFP/Getty Images

Big news for Chinese families today as the ruling party announces a major reform to the infamous "one child" policy. Now an urban couple can have two kids as long as one of the two parents is an only child.

The one child policy has become a bit of an odd beast. It was first implemented at a time of widespread belief in overpopulation stories and the urgent need to encourage families all around the world to have fewer kids. In that context, the one child policy was unusually draconian and reflected China's authoritarian politics, but also reflected broader ideas with considerable support in the west about demographics and economics.

Advertisement

From today's vantage point, it just looks like an unmitigated disaster. It's a huge impairment of human freedom, but it's also left China with a rapidly aging population and a severe gender imbalance among its younger cohorts. We've also learned more broadly that birth rates fall pretty dramatically in basically all societies that feature birth control technology, women with some modicum of autonomy from their male partners, and access to global popular culture. Which is to say that even without population control measures, most developed countries have birth rates below replacement level and most developing countries are rapidly converging.

The same policy announcement also says that China will no longer try to "re-educate" people by sentencing them to slave labor camps. All in all, a good day.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Meet the New Bosses

How the Republicans would run the Senate.

The Government Is Giving Millions of Dollars in Electric-Car Subsidies to the Wrong Drivers

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Cheez-Its. Ritz. Triscuits.

Why all cracker names sound alike.

Friends Was the Last Purely Pleasurable Sitcom

The Eye

This Whimsical Driverless Car Imagines Transportation in 2059

Medical Examiner

Did America Get Fat by Drinking Diet Soda?  

A high-profile study points the finger at artificial sweeteners.

The Afghan Town With a Legitimately Good Tourism Pitch

A Futurama Writer on How the Vietnam War Shaped the Series

  News & Politics
Photography
Sept. 21 2014 11:34 PM People’s Climate March in Photos Hundreds of thousands of marchers took to the streets of NYC in the largest climate rally in history.
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
  Life
Quora
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Sept. 21 2014 1:15 PM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 5  A spoiler-filled discussion of "Time Heist."
  Arts
Television
Sept. 21 2014 9:00 PM Attractive People Being Funny While Doing Amusing and Sometimes Romantic Things Don’t dismiss it. Friends was a truly great show.
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 21 2014 11:38 PM “Welcome to the War of Tomorrow” How Futurama’s writers depicted asymmetrical warfare.
  Health & Science
The Good Word
Sept. 21 2014 11:44 PM Does This Name Make Me Sound High-Fat? Why it just seems so right to call a cracker “Cheez-It.”
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.