So much is written and discussed about parents and children these days that it comes as a surprise to realize that a similar preoccupation can be found with the apparently declining birthrate. Various surveys have found a precipitous drop in fertility rates throughout the world, in middle-and low-income countries and even more so in rich ones.
China has received particular attention because its previously enforced one-child policy has been amended to permit the birth of a second child. Despite this, the birthrate has barely changed. The Chinese government had sought to engineer its population to reduce quantity in order to improve quality. This meant raising and educating children who could compete in the world economy.
This led to the “professionalization” of child-rearing shaped by the theories of educators, health and child psychology experts. Raising a “quality” child became a matter not only of keeping up with the latest child-rearing advice but a commitment to spending whatever it takes, such as special lessons, tutoring, playing an instrument or whatever.
Those studying the lack of interest in having second children attribute this to the economic…
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