Two-child policy in China has resulted in the birth of 5.4 million babies
In an effort to help address an aging population with stagnant growth, China recently announced a new policy which allows couples to have two children instead of only one. According to a study published in The BMJ, this policy change has resulted in an additional 5.4 million births.
The study is the first of its kind to investigate the effects of the two-child policy by analyzing national data. While births substantially increased as a result of the policy change, lawmakers had hoped the increase would be larger.
Under the new legislation, 90 million women of reproductive age who already had a child were given the opportunity to have a second child. The strategy was expected to result in the births of anywhere between one and 20 million new babies annually, but studies on the outcome have been limited.
To investigate, a team of researchers based in the United States and China set out to measure changes in births and health-related birth characteristics associated with the policy change.
The findings are based on 67.8 million births in 28 out of 31 provinces of mainland China during the first 18 months after the new legislation went into effect. During this time frame, an estimated 5.4 million extra babies were born. Also, for the first time, the number of Chinese women giving birth to their second child exceeded the number giving birth to their first.
Furthermore, the policy was associated with a 59 percent average increase in births to mothers who were 35 years or older, but there was no corresponding increase in premature births.
The study also revealed that there was a slight decrease in caesarean deliveries to first-time mothers. The researchers explained that this may signal a favorable trend towards vaginal birth in first-time Chinese mothers.
The study authors pointed out that many of the changes associated with the policy, including the increase in births, appeared to decline at the end of the study period. This raises questions about whether the policy’s effects will be sustained.
The team concluded that further research is needed “to develop a more nuanced understanding of the sustained impact of this historic change on the world’s largest nation.”
The study is published in the journal The BMJ.
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