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Warning Signs: US Family Policy and China’s Tragic Legacy

The damage has been done. China is trying to reverse its one-child policies, but the superpower’s social fabric has been permanently frayed by the destructive ideology it codified in 1980.

We have yet to observe the full effect anti-family ideology has had on China’s social and economic infrastructure, but we know its culture and economy have been drastically influenced. Because most families preferred to have a single son instead of a single daughter, females have been marginalized and discarded, leaving a significant gender gap in the Chinese population. Millions of missing women in a society has spawned a warped culture in which rape is common and men celebrate “Single’s Day,” which has evolved into the shopping equivalent of Black Friday in the US.

The difficulty of finding a partner is now normalized and accepted, but it has economic implications as well. China’s fatal policy decisions were founded on the assumption that less is more—that fewer people in a country means fewer burdens on society and more resources for everyone else. But rather than lightening social burdens, Chinese policy has destroyed generations of laborers, producers, and consumers, and the country is now experiencing slower economic growth because of its crippled population. More fundamentally, it fails to recognize that the production of a country is not fixed—that increased innovation and increased efficiency generate benefits for all.

Though it is easy to assume that a country of more people fewer more resources for each person, it actually means more ideas, more innovation, and more buyers and sellers. Over the past 100 years the world has seen exponential population growth and, simultaneously, drastic improvements in wealth and standards of living. As the world changes, human ideas are what drive new technology that allows people adapt and flourish. Embracing children as assets instead of liabilities has real and positive implications for economic growth and human flourishing, and this is by design.

For different reasons, American social norms surrounding marriage, family, and childbearing have also changed in the past four decades. 2020 held a record low for the US birth rate, which fell for the sixth year in a row. Researchers who champion abortion as an opportunity for progress among low-class populations make claims similar to those of the Chinese government—less is more. Some pro-abortion ideas, such as those displayed in The Turnaway Study, conclude the absence of unwanted children will lower crime, eradicate poverty, and improve life for existing children.

Abortion legality is not the only force threatening future generations of Americans. Women who aspire to be mothers in the United States express the impossible dichotomies they face. As one of the only wealthy countries that does not provide paid parental leave or postnatal support, the US is far behind the family policy other developed nations. Even at a local level, women feel isolated from their communities and expected to be fully sufficient, never asking for help from anyone who isn’t a relative.

It’s up to our communities to reverse this trend. We are familiar with the phrase, “It takes a village…,” and this still rings true even in our individualistic culture. There is hope for the US to improve in its pro-natal policies, and this is something we should all be marching for.

Until then, we must be neighborly in our support of parents, serious about our own willingness to engage in foster care and adoption, mindful about our workplaces’ demeanor towards family, and aware of how our churches and local institutions resource potential and current parents.

From China, we are learning that children, even the ones born into less-than-ideal financial and familial situations, are essential to society. We must claim responsibility for the next generation of our families, of our businesses, and of our culture at large. Children, by contemporary standards, are often considered inconvenient, needy, and they affect the productivity of a parent and a company. However, as proven over the course of history, they will positively affect the larger economy in the long run.

Though the gruesome history of Chinese family policy sounds unthinkable to Americans, we must be aware of our own trends and fight to protect the dignity of children and families. Our lawmakers, churches, workplaces, and communities need to heed the warnings of a government who tried its hand at playing God and is facing tragic consequences. For the sake of all of us, we must welcome all life.