It's widely reported (at least outside of China) that China's "One Child Policy" caused various forms of parental gender bias in China, such as gender-based abortions, infanticide or adoptions:

The one-child policy had a profound effect on the lives of ordinary Chinese. Notably, in a country where sons had long been favoured in rural communities, a problem of female infanticide swiftly developed after the policy was implemented.

I don't dispute the gender bias exists. But I'm doubtful as to whether the "One Child Policy" caused it, because other countries without the policy also have gender bias, though except for India they don't get reported on much by the media.

Did the "One Child Policy" cause or make worse gender bias by parents?

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    Is the claim that the policy causes gender bias (i.e. the attitude that one gender is better or a preference toward one over the other) in general, or that it causes gender bias to manifest in abortions etc.? As I understand the quote (and as I've been told from other sources), it's the latter: that is, gender bias already existed in China; after implementation of the policy, the existing gender bias combined with the one-child requirement resulted in abortions and infanticide of females so that the parents could have a higher-valued male child. Oct 29, 2015 at 22:10
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    I suggest changing the title. The quote reads "had a profound effect" which is somewhat different from "caused." I doubt any answer or study would meet the standards for "causation."
    – denten
    Oct 29, 2015 at 23:57
  • @iamnotmaynard I'm interested in whether it caused manifestations. I don't know a good way of phrasing it though.
    – Golden Cuy
    Oct 30, 2015 at 1:41
  • "Parental gender bias" is going to be hard to reason about. Female infanticide - i.e. the actual claim - will be easier. Child sex ratio easier still. Would either of those be sufficient?
    – Oddthinking
    Oct 30, 2015 at 2:29
  • @Oddthinking Yes, they'll be sufficient.
    – Golden Cuy
    Oct 30, 2015 at 2:40

1 Answer 1


A 2006 study in the BMJ looked at the sex ratio of children in China before and after the One Child Policy, as part of a large survey of 39,585 women.

The conclusions answer the question:

Since the one child family policy began, the total birth rate and preferred family size have decreased, and a gross imbalance in the sex ratio has emerged.

The imbalance between boys and girls (expressed as a ratio of males to females)

rose from 1.11 in 1980-9 to 1.23 for 1996-2001.

This sex imbalance over a short time is presumably through sex bias amongst parents.

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    From elsewhere in the article: "Likewise many other Asian countries that have declining birth rates and traditional preferences for male babies are seeing serious sex imbalances: 1.19 for Taiwan, 1.18 for Singapore, 1.12 for South Korea, and 1.20 for parts of northern India.16 Even without the policy, sex selective abortion would be likely to continue, although it would probably be less common."
    – Golden Cuy
    Oct 30, 2015 at 8:51
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    Proving causation, rather than correlation seems impossible.
    – Oddthinking
    Oct 30, 2015 at 10:02

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