Of all the reforms and policies set in motion in the early 1980s in China, the one-child policy has been called the most far-reaching in its implications for China's population and economic development. Almost two decades later, little is known about what the policy looks like across local neighborhoods and villages. To sketch a more general picture of the one-child policy, this article presents panel data from three waves of the China Health and Nutrition Survey (1989, 1991, and 1993) collected in 167 communities in eight provinces. Local policy, including policy strength and policy incentives and disincentives, is detailed separately for urban and rural areas. These data confirm that no single one-child policy exists; policy varied considerably from place to place and within individual communities during the 1989-93 period.
PIP: China's 1-child policy was introduced in 1979, giving incentives to couples who pledged to have only 1 child, and penalizing couples who bore three or more births. Second births were discouraged, but not penalized. However, in 1981 and 1982, in urban and then rural areas, policy changed to forbid second births except under extraordinary circumstances. By 1983, mandatory IUD insertions, abortions, and sterilizations were reported. Policy, however, eased in 1984 and further during the late 1980s. China's 1-child policy will have a major long-term impact upon the country's population and economic development. Panel data are presented from the 1989, 1991, and 1993 waves of the China Health and Nutrition Survey conducted in 167 communities in 8 provinces. Local policy, including policy strength, incentives, and disincentives, is described separately for urban and rural areas. The data indicate that no single 1-child policy exists. Rather, policy varied considerably from place to place and within individual communities during 1989-93.