Thinkers & Advocates

Kay Ann Johnson

The adoptive mother humanizing the costs of China’s one-child policy.

Professor of Asian studies, Hampshire College

China’s recently scrapped one-child policy joined a cultural and social preference for sons with coercive reproductive restrictions that were often brutal. Over a period spanning decades, millions of families aborted or abandoned female babies, or even killed them post-birth, leading to the most distorted gender ratio in the world as well as a flow of international adoptees outward.

As a result, since 1995, Americans have welcomed more than 84,000 Chinese children, mostly girls, into their homes and families. Kay Ann Johnson, an adoptive mother, has put her own experience raising a Chinese-born daughter to good use, drawing from her own life to write China’s Hidden Children, the most recent of several books she has penned on the phenomenon. Johnson’s work, which includes decades of in-country interviews, shows that many Chinese parents struggled to keep their daughters; their wrenching decisions to abandon their children came only as a last resort.

(Photo Credit: Hampshire College)