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Education has been identified as one of the main transmission mechanisms of intergenerational mobility; thus, investigating patterns of intergenerational educational persistence can shed light on the equality of social opportunities and provide insights for policymakers aiming to promote social welfare. Moreover, many believe that lowering the number of children will lead to an increase in educational attainment. This paper attempts to relate these two topics by studying the relationship between the quantity-quality trade-off and educational mobility. In this sense, China serves as a perfect case for this study given that the One-Child Policy (OCP) implemented in 1979 created an exogenous decrease in family size. If there is a quality-quantity trade off, the One-Child Policy, by putting a restriction on the number of children each family can have, will induce more human capital investment; however, the question is whether poor or wealthy households benefit more from this policy? If the latter increase their children’s quality more than poor families do, the educational persistence grows stronger, and accordingly, education mobility falls, so does social equality.
This study employs both theoretic and empirical approaches to dissect this issue. Using data from the China Living Standard Survey (CLSS) in 1995, we are able to detect a significant increase in the intergenerational educational persistence after the implementation of OCP but no significant difference between the fertility decisions made by rich and poor households responding to this policy. Therefore, households, regardless of the family income, choose to have the same number of fewer children, freeing up the same amount of extra time to invest into the children that they have. Because rich parents have a higher wage, the same amount of extra time allows them to allocate more resources towards investing in their children’s human capital; thus, their children benefit disproportionably from the One-Child Policy, and education mobility falls.
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Lu, Lei, "The One Child Policy and Intergenerational Educational mobility in China" (2014). Senior Projects Spring 2014. 323.