One Child Left Behind


| March-April 2009


Thirty years after China implemented its notorious one-child law, a clearer picture of how the policy might affect its population in the long term is emerging.

Contexts (Summer 2008) breaks down some of the demographic headaches that China is likely to encounter, including the “four-two-one problem”—a generation of only children who will have to marshal the time and resources to care for four elderly grandparents and two aging parents. In fact, Contexts notes, “young couples have started to show daughter-preference, with a hope that those girls will take care of them later in life.”

The one-child policy still tips the gender balance toward the Y chromosome, and researchers suggest that the surplus of “socially unconnected” men might lead them to antisocial behavior and criminal activity.