Where Have All the Children Gone? An Empirical Study of Child Abandonment and Abduction in China

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See all articles by Xiaojia Bao

Xiaojia Bao

Xiamen University - Wang Yanan Institute for Studies in Economics (WISE)

Sebastian Galiani

University of Maryland - Department of Economics

Kai Li

School of Economics and WISE, Xiamen University

Cheryl Xiaoning Long

Xiamen University

Date Written: November 16, 2019

Abstract

In the past 40 years, a large number of children have been abandoned by their families or have been abducted in China. We argue that the implementation of the one-child policy has significantly increased both child abandonment and child abduction and that, furthermore, the cultural preference for sons in China has shaped unique gender-based patterns whereby a majority of the children who are abandoned are girls and a majority of the children who are abducted are boys. We provide empirical evidence for the following findings: (1) Stricter one-child policy implementation leads to more child abandonment locally and more child abduction in neighboring regions; (2) A stronger son-preference bias in a given region intensifies both the local effects and spatial spillover effects of the region's one-child policy on child abandonment and abduction; and (3) With the gradual relaxation of the one-child policy after 2002, both child abandonment and child abduction have dropped significantly. This paper is the first to provide empirical evidence on the unintended consequences of the one-child policy in terms of child trafficking in China.

Keywords: One-child policy, Child abandonment, Child abduction, Son-preference bias.

JEL Classification: J13, K42.

Suggested Citation

Bao, Xiaojia and Galiani, Sebastian and Li, Kai and Long, Cheryl Xiaoning, Where Have All the Children Gone? An Empirical Study of Child Abandonment and Abduction in China (November 16, 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=

Xiaojia Bao (Contact Author)

Xiamen University - Wang Yanan Institute for Studies in Economics (WISE) ( email )

A 307, Economics Building
Xiamen, Fujian 10246
China

Sebastian Galiani

University of Maryland - Department of Economics ( email )

College Park, MD 20742
United States

Kai Li

School of Economics and WISE, Xiamen University ( email )

B502B, Economics Building, Xiamen University
422 Siming South Road, Siming District
Xiamen, Fujian 361005
China

Cheryl Xiaoning Long

Xiamen University ( email )

Xiamen, Fujian 361005
China

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