Searching for the Answer for China’s Fertility Puzzle: Data Collection and Data Use in the Last Two Decades

Guangyu Zhang, Australian National University
Zhongwei Zhao, Australian National University

China’s fertility level has become a matter of considerable debate since the early 1990s. This is largely related to the under-registration problem that has been frequently found in fertility data. Despite the widespread concern, however, a recent literature review has revealed that there has been a lack of systematic examination of major fertility data in terms of their collection, specific problems, and use in demographic research. Based on this analysis, this paper first examines five major fertility data sources, and then identifies a number of problems in producing and using fertility data and further discusses their implications. Finally, it addresses some issues relating to China’s controversial 2000 census results and the extremely low fertility. The paper concludes that the prevalent uncertainty about fertility level is not only related to the problem of data quality, but also a result of misusing fertility data and exaggerating the problem of under-registration.

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Presented in Session 126: Dilemmas of Demographic Data in China