China’s one child policy, marriage markets and crime

cameronlCentre for Contemporary China Studies, University of Melbourne

Stealing my way to your heart: China’s one child policy, marriage markets and crime

Professor Lisa Cameron
Monash University

5.30-7.00pm Thursday 24 March, 2016
Room 321, Level 3
Sidney Myer Asia Centre, 761 Swanston Street
University of Melbourne

China’s One Child Policy has led to a sex-ratio significantly in excess of that which would naturally occur. Using survey and experimental data from a sample of over 1000 prison inmates and a random sample of non-inmates in Shenzhen, this paper examines the drivers of rising criminality in China. Consistent with socio-biological research on other species, we find that high sex-ratios are associated with greater risk-taking and impatience amongst males. We show that these underlying behavioural impacts explain part of the overall increase in criminality in China associated with high sex ratios. The direct pressure on unmarried men to appear financially attractive in order to find a partner in the marriage market is however the primary driver of the increases in crime. These marriage market pressures result in a higher propensity to commit financially rewarding crimes, such as drug-dealing. Violent crime is not associated with current marriage market conditions but is related to the sex-ratio in the individuals’ birth cohorts in their home prefecture, consistent with a socio-biological basis of aggression.

Lisa Cameron is an empirical micro-economist whose research focuses on social and economic issues in Asia. She received her PhD from Princeton University in 1996 and since 2010 has been a Professor in the Department of Econometrics at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. Her research on the behavioural impacts of China’s One Child Policy was published in Science (2013). She is currently working on an examination of the way in which China’s skewed sex-ratio is driving its increasing crime rate (with Xin Meng, ANU; and Dandan Zhang, Peking University). Other current research projects include an examination of the health impacts of criminalization of sex work in Indonesia; an evaluation of an information intervention aimed at improving the welfare of female international migrant workers; and an examination of the welfare of China’s left-behind children. In 2013 she was appointed a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Social Sciences. She spent the latter half of 2015 on sabbatical at UCLA’s School of Public Affairs.

Admission is free, but registration is essential.