A new study of China’s one-child policy is roiling demography, sparking calls for the field’s leading journal to withdraw the paper. The controversy has ignited a debate over scholarly values in a discipline that some say often prioritizes reducing population growth above all else.In other words, many researchers are saying that scientific publications should be manipulated to conform to political goals.
Chinese officials have long claimed that the one-child policy — in place from 1980 to 2016 — averted some 400 million births, which they say aided global environmental efforts. Scholars, in turn, have contested that number as flawed. But in a paper published in the journal Demography in August, Daniel Goodkind — an analyst at the U.S. Census Bureau in Suitland, Maryland, who published as an independent researcher — argues that the figure may, in fact, have merit.
By extrapolating from countries that experienced more moderate fertility decline, Goodkind contends that birth-planning policies implemented after 1970 avoided adding between 360 million and 520 million people to China’s population. Because the momentum from that decline will continue into later generations, he suggests, the total avoided population could approach 1 billion by 2060. Some scholars worry such estimates could be used to justify, ex post facto, the policy’s existence, and feel that Goodkind’s criticisms of previous work fall outside the bounds of scholarly decorum.
“For the top journal to publish that paper was quite something,” says Nancy Riley, a demographer ...
Beginning in 2000, an international group of researchers appealed to the Chinese government to relax birth-planning regulations. At the heart of their argument was empirical research debunking the claim of 400 million averted births.
There are various political and moral arguments for and against the China 1-child policy. I am not sure what my position on that would have been. But it is a little crazy to say that data and analysis should only be published if it supports one side of the argument.