Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

Household Economic Transformation and Recent Fertility in Emerging Market Economies: China and Vietnam Compared*

Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

Household Economic Transformation and Recent Fertility in Emerging Market Economies: China and Vietnam Compared*

Article excerpt

(ProQuest Information and Learning: ... denotes text missing in the original.)

What propels some households, rather than others, to change and adopt new forms of activity? This paper focuses on one possible factor-the event of a birth-in two societies that are transitioning from socialism to market economy: China and Vietnam. The influence of births and childrearing on women's labor force participation has been examined across a wide range of social contexts (Tiefenthaler, 1997;Sweet, 1973;Shortetal.,2002;Roos, 1985; Oppenheimer, 1979; Mason and Palan, 1981; Entwisle and Chen, 2002; Desai and Waite, 1991). Parallel work has yet to emerge that explores economic adjustment and transformation following the birth of a child occurring at the level of the household. This paper takes a comparative and longitudinal approach to exploring the relationship between recent fertility and household economic activity. Our analyses, rooted in theories of household economy and family adaptive strategy, are concerned with the household as a collective, flexible unit and the nature of its dynamism over time. According to these theoretical perspectives, family size and composition are consequential for the creation of entrepreneurship and other adaptive strategies because each influences access to labor, human resources, social capital, and financial capital (Tilly and Scott, 1978; Hareven, 1982; Chayanov, 1966).

The central question that we address in this paper is whether the birth of a child is an event that precipitates change in families' economic activities, notably, the adoption of entrepreneurial activity or diversification across economic sectors. Since the late 1970s, Chinese and Vietnamese households, once organized into collectives and cooperatives of command economies, have grown increasingly salient as units of economic production, innovation and market participation (Judd, 1994; Entwisle et al., 2000). China's swift adoption of the household responsibility system and decollectivization policies, beginning in 1978, and Vietnam's movement toward household-based agricultural production via a series of doi moi land laws and household business reforms beginning in the mid 1980s, transferred the organization of agriculture and decision-making about production and labor from the statedirected, collective system into the domain of households (Liljestrom et al., 1998; Jacka, 1997; Fforde and deVylder, 1996). These dramatic policy shifts made peasant households into small-scale cultivators, facing "all the risks and opportunities that independent entrepreneurship entailed" (Chan et al., 1992, p. 271). In the context of these state policy changes, households vary in the extent to which they participate in and benefit from new patterns of economic activity. Macro economic change arises in part through changes in the activities performed by units that constitute the economy.,

The impact of a birth on household economic activity is of particular interest in these settings given that market reform policies in both countries were closely followed by state birth planning programs that limited couples' ability to choose how many children to have, and thus influenced the internal structure of their households. We draw from three multi-wave household surveys conducted in Vietnam and China during the 1990s to determine whether the addition of a child, or children, serves to either restrict or expand the types of economic activity undertaken by households. Our research design also makes it possible to determine whether families with an abundance of young children are more or less likely than families with few children to adopt market-oriented economic activities, such as non-farm enterprises. Taken together, these analyses delineate the relationship between fertility and household economic activity and thereby provide insights into the logic of fertility limitation policies in the context of market transition. We directly compare households across Vietnam and China, and households located in rural and urban areas, to assess the effects of fertility on economic outcomes as they occur in four distinct contexts: urban China, urban Vietnam, rural China, and rural Vietnam. …

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