China's Low Fertility in the 1990s: An Illusion from Birth Underreporting?

Guangyu Zhang, Australian National University

Estimates of China's fertility in the 1990s were greatly affected by the concerns of serious underreporting of births. However, in addition to much agreement among various large-scale data over time, neither extensive literature reviews, nor analyses utilizing a number of independent sources, can support the argument of substantial birth underreporting, which mainly resulted from neglect in data difference and regional disparities. A series of data comparisons suggest the possibility of overestimate in birth underreporting and hence upward fertility adjustments. Using data gathered at different points in time by different organizations, this research suggests that China's fertility declined from around 2.0 to 1.68 in the first half of the 1990s, and dropped further to 1.5 at the turn of the century. This decline was characterized by changes in both fertility preference and reproductive behaviours. Besides the strengthening of the official family planning program, structural changes had been a more fundamental cause.

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Presented in Session 51: Very Low Fertility I