China's "Little Emperors"

In a Freakonomics Radio episode called “Misadventures in Baby-Making,” we looked at the unintended consequences of China’s One Child Policy. A new paper (gated) in Science looks at the so-called “little emperors” and how they might impact China’s economy. From Bloomberg:

China’s one-child policy has produced adults that tend to have personality traits unsuited for starting businesses or managing companies, according to a study that adds to economic concerns surrounding the rule.

Using surveys of 421 men and women in Beijing and testing their skills in economic games, researchers in Australia found those born after the 1979 policy were more pessimistic, nervous, less conscientious, less competitive and more risk averse. They also found them to be 23 percent less prone to choose an occupation that entails business risk, such as becoming a stockbroker, entrepreneur or private firm manager.

(HT: Katherine Wells)

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How strange that they tend to be more "pessimistic, nervous, less conscientious, less competitive and more risk averse". I'd have guessed that a nation of "only children" would be more confident, to have an unrealistic idea of their own importance and infallibility, etc.

Perhaps, though, this is less about the number of siblings and more about the fact that so few live at home full time in the early childhood years. Many Chinese children spend the preschool years at live-in daycare centers which are not much different from living in a large orphanage all week, and spending only the weekends at home (where the parents overindulge them in candy and bad behavior, because they trust the school to straighten them out during the week).


"Using surveys of 421 men and women in Beijing"

This is awesome. "421" is another Chinese slang for "little emperors": it means 4 grandparents and 2 parents focusing all their attention on 1 child. Well played, authors!

Michael McCroskey

There is a big difference in one respect - Chinese children are not bombarded with messages of false success. They may be materially spoiled, but there are under tremendous pressure to compete and excel in academics. There is little "self-esteem" building inthw Chinese culture I have observed in my past


I wonder... A quick skim through the Wikipedia article on only children ( - to be taken with the usual grain or two of salt) suggests that only children aren't very different from those with siblings. China's One Child policy has long been controversial: is it too cynical to wonder whether this might be yet another case of a study where the results are massaged to discredit the policy?

Eric M. Jones.

"Using surveys of 421 men and women in Beijing..."

What's the statistical significance of 0.002%? And was that a survey of the apartment building or dorm they lived in?

Seminymous Coward

Required sample size doesn't take population size as an input. For means, it depends on acceptable margin of error and population standard deviation, for which sample standard deviation is frequently substituted in practice. For hypothesis tests, it depends on those as well as desired power and the smallest effect size which needs to be detected. (There's a trivial exception when the population size is less than the size of the sample you would otherwise need.)


So people older than 33 are more (something) than people younger than 33. I would think you could fill in that blank with a million things. Like gray hair and knowledge of Beatles songs and times in the 100 meter dash.