China’s One-Child Policy’ Effects

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Immigration policies in the United States

All people living in the United States are immigrants except for the natives. In the early years, the US operated an open immigration policy until 1790 when the country came up with the Naturalization Act that allowed immigrants of European and Caucasian decent only. The Chinese Exclusion Act was later ratified in1882 to deter immigrants from China into the country.

However, this was later revoked in 1943. There have been significant Acts put in place to govern the number and ethnicity of immigrants in the US. The paper seeks to carry out an analysis of the impact of China’s one-child policy on US immigration.

China’s One-Child Policy

The one-child policy in China was introduced in 1979. Since then, the policy has been operational even though there are changes in the economic and social conditions over the period. The policy was based on the idea that the rapid growth of the population will affect the rate of economic growth and development because of a high population over stretches the country’s resources (Kane and Choi 6). Besides, the government focuses on providing public goods for the larger population rather than developing the country.

The country experienced an increase in the total population by 250 million between 1953 and 1970. The growth in this period was equivalent to 2.8%. Five years after the implementation of the policy, the population growth rate declined to 1.3%. The government came up with several incentives to motivate families to have only one child. Examples of the incentives were financial support and preferential treatment. Also, the government outlined penalties for families that did not comply with the policy.

Examples of the penalties were financial levies and loss of jobs for those employed in the government. Implementation of the policy in the early years was more successful in urban centers than in rural areas. The residents in the rural area were difficult to convert. However, negotiations and comprises were made to ensure successful implementation of the policy in the whole country (Kane and Choi 8).

In recent years, the success of the policy has been difficult to measure due to internal and external immigrations. It is worth noting that the impact of immigration was not put into consideration when coming up with the policy. Statistics show that the country experiences internal immigration of about 150 million citizens.

Thus, they form a floating population that cannot be accounted for. Further, a substantial number that can also not be estimated moved to other countries such as the United States to seek asylum. Therefore, the country lacks accurate data on the success of the policy. Further, an increase in disposable income reduces the effectiveness of the policy because the citizens are willing to pay for the penalties.

Research of a policy initiative of a migrant organization


In recent years, the United States receives a significant number of Chinese tourists who visit to give birth in the country. The increase in birth tourism is experienced because pregnant mothers avoid vengeance, levies, and other penalties that come with China’s one-child policy. The practice is common with women who belong to the elite and well-off circles such as Taiwan, South Korea, and Hong Kong. Some regions in the United States grant tourists 45 days to visit the country without a visa.

An example is the Northern Mariana Islands. The policy is meant to encourage tourism. Therefore, the Chinese use that avenue to migrate to the US.

Further, the children born in some of these regions acquire US citizenship. In recent years, there has been significant growth in the number of Chinese tourists who visit the US for birth. Statistics show that January 2013 and July, the number increased by 49% when compared to the previous years.

Further, the number increased by 175% between 2010 and 2012. There are no accurate statistics of the children born through birth tourism because most of the operations are carried out underground.

Further, it can be pointed out that birth tourism has contributed significantly to the massive growth of the Chinese population in the United Stated. Statistics show that the Chinese make up the second largest population of the foreign-born in the US after Mexicans. The table presented below shows the statistics of the Chinese in the United States.

China US
Year Population Percentage change Population Percentage change Proportion of Chinese
1850 4,018 23,191,876 35.90% 0.02%
1860 34,933 769.40% 31,443,321 35.60% 0.11%
1870 63,199 80.90% 38,558,371 22.60% 0.16%
1880 105,465 66.90% 49,371,340 28.00% 0.21%
1890 107,488 1.90% 62,979,766 27.60% 0.17%
1900 89,863 −16.4% 76,212,168 21.00% 0.12%
1910 71,531 −20.4% 92,228,531 21.00% 0.08%
1920 61,639 −13.8% 106,021,568 15.00% 0.06%
1930 74,954 21.60% 123,202,660 16.20% 0.06%
1940 77,504 3.40% 132,165,129 7.30% 0.06%
1950 117,629 51.80% 151,325,798 14.50% 0.08%
1960 237,292 101.70% 179,323,175 18.50% 0.13%
1970 435,062 83.30% 203,211,926 13.30% 0.21%
1980 806,040 85.30% 226,545,805 11.50% 0.36%
1990 1,645,472 104.10% 248,709,873 9.80% 0.66%
2000 2,432,585 47.80% 281,421,906 13.20% 0.86%
2010 3,347,229 37.60% 308,745,531 9.70% 1.08%

Source of data – McCabe 1; United States Census Bureau 1

The statistics indicate that there was significant growth in the proportion of the Chinese population in the United States between 1850 and 1890. This can be explained by the migration of the Chinese into the country to seek employment during the California Gold Rush. Besides, they were fleeing from the turmoil and poverty in their country. Between 1900 and 1920, there was a decline in the population of the Chinese in the United States.

The population of the Chinese later increased from 74,954 in 1930 to 806,040 in 1980. It can be noted that after the implementation of the one-child policy in 1979, there was a robust increase in the number of Chinese population in the United States. The Chinese population more than doubled that is, from 806,040 in 1980 to 1,645,472 in 1990. The increase was equivalent to 839,432 within ten years. The number further increased to 3,347,229 in 2010.

The value is equivalent to 1.08% of the total population in the US. Therefore, the one-child policy led to an increase in the proportion of the Chinese in the United States. A similar trend is observed in other countries where the Chinese fled to such as Japan. The trend of growth of the Chinese in America and the total population of the US is presented in the graph below.

Total population of the US and Chinese in the US

The graph shows that the rate of growth of the Chinese population after the implementation of the one-child policy was higher than the rate of growth of the total US population.

Diverse opinions on the impact of the policy on the US immigration

Over the years, there have been mixed reactions on the impact of the one-child policy on the United States immigration. One group opines that the US economy benefits from the one-child policy through tourism. Tourism business in some regions in the United States has grown tremendously due to birth tourism. An example is the Northern Mariana Islands. The textile industry on the Island collapsed, and now they depend on tourism as the main economic activity.

The pregnant mothers are charged a relatively high amount of fees for accommodation and maternity care. Another region is Saipan. The Island receives a massive flow of tourist from Chinese origin. There are organized flights from some regions in China, such as Beijing and Shanghai that transports the tourists about eight times in a week. The charges are about $11,000 for accommodation, travel and other expenses and an addition of $10,000 for medical expenses.

Other regions such as California have well-organized maternity homes for the Chinese pregnant mothers. Some of these baby care centers are Chinese owned. The region charges about $14,000 for the expenses related to accommodation and maternity. Therefore, it can be noted that some regions in the United States earn a lot of revenue from birth tourism.

Thus, any measures taken by the government to curb birth tourism will significantly affect the tourism business in these regions. Apart from the economic benefits that come with a significant increase in tourism birth, it also leads to the growth in diversity in the country. Diversity in a population has several benefits to the US.

There is a second group that does not support birth tourism in the United States. The group argues from the immigration policy point of view. Initially, the Refugee Act of 1980 granted asylum to the residents of Chinese origin based on the one-child policy. The Refugee Act of 1980 was intended to protect people who were persecuted or were living under the fear of persecution based on their religion, political views, and nationality, among other reasons. Therefore, the Chinese citizens sought asylum in the United States based on this Act.

However, the practice was abolished by the Migration Policy Institute during the president’s Bush government on the basis that the case of Chinese citizens did not fall under the provision of the Act. In recent years, the US government does not grant asylum to Chinese residents based on the one-child policy. The Chinese citizens found another avenue for escaping the vengeance, levies, and other penalties that come with China’s one-child policy.

The current policy grants citizenship to the children born within the United States. Therefore, children born through birth tourism are entitled to automatic citizenship in the United States. Studies that have been carried out automatic link citizenship to the increase in the number of illegal immigrants in the United Stated who cannot be accounted for. The illegal immigrants have decided to build a better life in the United States. Therefore, they achieve this through birth tourism.

Based on this argument, the main motivation for birth tourism is the search for employment and better economic conditions in the US. This applies mostly to people from Mexico. However, it may not hold in the case of China’s one-child policy because pregnant mothers obtain legal documentation for their stay in the US. Therefore, they do not fall under the category of illegal immigrants.

Even though the Chinese obtain legal documentation for their stay in the US, this group argues that children born through birth tourism are for illegal immigrants. The group suggests that the automatic citizenship that is currently granted to children of illegal immigrants, as well as birth tourists, should be abolished.

The group argues that failure to abolish the citizenship for children born in the US will result in an escalating number of illegal immigrants into the country. Their argument is based on the fact that once a child is granted citizenship, they will petition for their parents and other family members to migrate to the US. This will result in an endless sequence of migration into the country.

Several attempts have been made to push for changes to the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution. The changes aim at stopping involuntary citizenship for babies born to illegal immigrants. The challenge with abolishing this law is that changing the constitution in the US is an uphill task. The politicians argue that China’s one-child policy affects politics and voting patterns. They argue that the immigrants tend to support the democrats more than the republicans during elections.

Besides, the politicians use immigration as a campaign strategy to rally support from the vast population of the immigrants without taking into account the impact of such campaigns on the economy of the country.

Further, the politicians who are advocating for abolishing the automatic citizenship base their arguments on the fact that an increase in the population of immigrants will overburden the government in term of provision of public resources. The problem of tourism birth that is instigated by China’s one-child policy requires several policy measures to ensure that the activity does not affect the US economy negatively.

Policy recommendations

The discussion above shows that China’s one-child policy has an impact on US migration. The statistics presented in the table above indicates that there is a robust increase in the population of Chinese residents in the United States since the implementation of the policy in 1979. Initially, the Chinese escaped from their country and were granted citizenship based on The Refugee Act of 1980.

However, the avenue was blocked. Currently, the rising trend of the Chinese population can be attributed to tourism birth. A major effect of China’s one-child policy on the US economy is the escalating number of illegal immigrants in the country. Therefore, there are several policies that can be implemented to reduce the increase in the number of immigrants.

The first policy recommendation would be to eliminate the birthright citizenship of the children born to illegal immigrants and through tourism birth. However, various analysts believe that it will be difficult to prevent an increase in the population by changing the legal status of tourism birth. This can be attributed to the difficulties inherent in the process.

Further, the Migration Policy Institute thinks that revoking the birthright citizenship of the children born in the United States irrespective of their citizenship will result in a drastic increase in the number of unauthorized children (America Immigration Council 1). The Institute states that currently there is a high population of immigrants in the United States who are undocumented and implementation of this policy would escalate this number (America Immigration Council 1).

The Institutes estimate that the number of illegal immigrants will grow to more than twenty-four million by 2050. Secondly, the institute argues that revoking citizenship may lead to an increase in the number of children who lack legal homes. Therefore, the children may be forced to live on the border of the international communities. Such children would lack access to basic amenities. Besides, they will be exposed to mistreatment.

Finally, the Institute outlines that revoking the automatic citizenship does not solve the problems that exist in the immigration system in the US. Statistics carried out by the Institute indicates that the immigrant comes to the country to seek job opportunities, join their families living in the US or escape from oppression in their home countries. Therefore, their ultimate goal is not to acquire US citizenship. This implies that coming up with a policy that touches on automatic citizenship at birth will not solve the problem.

The institute further outlines that the congress should not focus on “changing the Fourteenth Amendment of the constitution but rather address immigration issues by reforming the immigration laws in a way that fairly addresses the economic and labor needs in the country, unites American families and ensure that there are legal channels to enter and stay in the US” (America Immigration Council 1).

The second policy recommendation would be to increase the price of issuing birth certificates to children born in the United States. In some states such as Saipan, the birth certificate is currently charged an amount of $20 per issue. A proposal to raise the charges for issuing birth certificates to $50,000 may help solve the problem. In this case, the children born through birth tourism will have to spend $50,000 in addition to travel, accommodation, and maternity expenses.

This might help reduce the number of certificates issued to children born through birth tourism. However, this policy may face several setbacks because tourism birth is practiced by wealthy citizens. Therefore, they will be able to pay the increased charges. It hinders the effectiveness of this policy.

The third policy recommendation is that the US government should put in place measures to identify, prevent and reprimand immigrants who come into the country on provisional or tourist visas with an intention of giving birth and returning to their home countries after giving birth. At the moment, the United States lacks laws that prohibit the immigrants from taking advantage of the provisional or tourist visas to give birth in the US and grant their children an automatic birth certificate.

Lack of such policies in the country has led to the rapid growth of the birth tourism business. It can be noted that the number of maternity home set aside for the tourist mothers have increased significantly. Besides, failure to have such policies has encouraged mothers to give birth several times in the US. There is evidence that pregnant mothers give birth more than once in the US. To achieve this, the US Congress needs to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act, especially on areas that govern the issuance of visas.

The change should aim at restricting entry for pregnant mothers or limit the duration of their visas depending on their maturity dates. This measure may be effective because it will deal with prevention of the possible avenues used by pregnant women to give birth in the US. This will reduce the rate of increase in the population of illegal immigrants in the country.

Works Cited

America Immigration Council. Eliminating Birthright Citizenship Would Not Solve the Problem of Unauthorized Immigration. 2011. Web.

Kane, Penny and Ching Y. Choi. “China’s One Child Family Policy”. British Medical Journal 319.7215 (1999): 992 – 994. Print.

McCabe, Kristen. Chinese Immigrants in the United States. 2012. Web.

United States Census Bureau. American Community Survey. 2013. Web.

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DemoEssays. "China’s One-Child Policy' Effects." December 30, 2022.