Expectant mothers in China are hopping onto airplanes in ever larger numbers to give birth abroad, and it’s not set to slow down anytime soon. What is it that lures would-be parents to foreign lands? Clean water? Clean air? Those surely help, but there is one key factor that trumps everything else: the enormous savings associated with being enrolled in a “free” education system.
According to Worldwide magazine, about 600 Chinese mothers went abroad to give birth in 2007, growing to 5,000 in 2010 and over 10,000 in 2012. That doubled again to 20,000 in 2013, and is expected to hit anywhere between 50,000 and 60,000 in 2015, according to the Mother-Child Management Association.
The primary destination for new parents is now the United States after Hong Kong introduced limits on Mainland parents giving birth in the territory. One person told the magazine:
On any given flight going to the USA (from China), there is likely to be five pregnant Chinese women. In any given neighborhood of prosperous cities like Beijing and Shanghai, there is likely to be several expectant mothers going to the US to give birth to their baby.
Aside from access to free primary education, Chinese parents also consider how much money they will save by having their child attend a US school as a “US citizen” instead as a “foreign exchange student”.
A child with US citizenship enrolled in the US education system will save a Chinese parent a total of $600,000, the report said. The savings continue to rack up as the child continues to post-secondary education. If we use public colleges in California as an example, an exchange student will pay $12,000 in annual tuition while a “US citizen” will pay just $2,000. Therefore, the Chinese parent will be able to save $300,000 over four years of college.
Intermediary consultancies advertise by saying a baby with US citizenship is a financial windfall:
Give me RMB 100,000, and I’ll give you a US baby worth RMB 9.8 million
Last year, a romcom featuring Tang Wei called Finding Mr Right (or its Chinese name, Beijing Meets Seattle) featured a Chinese parent having babies abroad and using the private maternity facilities available. Afterwards, intermediary consultancies reported a huge spike in business with clients referencing the movie when they called.
Meanwhile, Seattle has experienced a huge upsurge in Chinese tourists as a result of the film. Tom Norwalk of Visit Seattle, an organization that promotes Seattle tourism, said Finding Mr Right “has captivated a younger generation in China, and the timing couldn’t be more perfect.” Norwalk also said more young Chinese women are visiting Seattle.
Traveling may be expensive, but the investment may pay huge dividends if children are born in America.