Journal of Population Research

, Volume 35, Issue 1, pp 23–40 | Cite as

Fertility, gender preference, the Birth Planning Policy and life satisfaction in China

  • James P. Smith
  • Xiaoyan Lei
  • Yan Shen
  • Guangsu Zhou


Using data from China Family Panel Studies 2010, we evaluate the role of the Birth Planning Policy (BPP) in altering decisions to have another child by birth parity, and the relationship of life satisfaction with the gender structure of the children of Chinese residents. We find strong positive effects of the BPP on the decision of having an additional child for Chinese residents, particularly if the previous children were girls. In spite of strong son preference in fertility behaviour, residents whose children are all daughters are found to be more satisfied with their lives than with other gender structures. The empirical findings support the view that daughters are more helpful in providing assistance to parents and in mitigating family conflicts hence increasing life satisfaction, while son preferences may be pursued reasons of lineage and hence do not result in more satisfied lives. We also find evidence that the BPP penalty might be a reason why having more sons could reduce life satisfaction.


Fertility Gender Life satisfaction China 



This research was supported by grants from the National Institute on Aging, and Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant Nos. 71490732 and 71103004).


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • James P. Smith
    • 1
  • Xiaoyan Lei
    • 2
  • Yan Shen
    • 2
  • Guangsu Zhou
    • 3
  1. 1.Chair in Labor Markets and Demographic StudiesThe RAND CorporationSanta MonicaUSA
  2. 2.CCER, Room 628, National School of DevelopmentPeking UniversityBeijingPeople’s Republic of China
  3. 3.CICCE, School of EconomicsNankai UniversityTianjinPeople’s Republic of China

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