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Local Politics and National Statistics: Underreporting and the "Missing Girls" in China

with Professor John James Kennedy

Sponsored by the Sigur Center for Asian Studies

Friday, September 23, 2016
12:30 PM - 1:45 PM
The Elliott School of International Affairs
1957 E Street, NW, Chung-wen Shih Conference -Suite 503
Washington, DC 20052

Seating is limited! RSVP at

During the 1980s and into the 2000s, local underreporting had a significant influence on national statistics especially the sex ratio at birth statistic that suggests massive gender imbalance within the population. We adopt the theory of the Street-level Bureaucrat to explain how local cadres (village and township) during this period allowed ‘illegal’ underreporting for several critical policies, such as grain quotas and arable land as well as ‘out of plan births,' in return for relative social stability and tax/fee collection. Rather than selective policy implementation, we suggest that under reporting is a result of explicit bargaining between villagers and cadres. Despite the national priority to reduce births, it was in the interest of both villagers and town officials to underreport ‘out of plan’ births. These atomized and cumulative acts of underreporting had a significant influence on regional and national statics particularly the sex ratio at birth statistic. Underreported births (or late registration) are “missing” from the national sex ratio at birth statistic. Thus, we demonstrate that underreporting was pervasive during this time, and that the gender balance is not as skewed as the national sex ratio at birth statistic suggests.

John James Kennedy received his Ph.D. at the University of California, Davis in 2002. He is an Associate Professor in the department of Political Science at the University of Kansas (KU), and he is also the Director of the Center for Global and International Studies at KU from 2012-2015. John also served as the president of the Association of Chinese Political Studies (2012-2014). He has consistently returned to China to conduct research on rural politics since 1995, and he is also co-founder of the Northwest Socioeconomic Development Research Center (NSDRC) at Northwest University, Xian, China. In addition, John is a research affiliate with the Rural Education Action Program (REAP) at Stanford University. His research is on local governance and topics include local elections, tax and fee reform, rural education, health care and the cadre management system. He has published research articles in The China Quarterly, Journal of Contemporary China, Asian Survey, and many others.



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