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Reexamining China's Fertility Puzzle: Data Collection and Quality over the Last Two Decades


  • Guangyu Zhang
  • Zhongwei Zhao


China's fertility level has become a matter of considerable debate since the early 1990s. Despite the widespread concern over data quality, a review of the literature reveals little systematic examination of how fertility data are collected, what specific problems they pose, and how they have been used in demographic research. This article examines five major fertility data sources and identifies problems in producing and using fertility data and discusses their implications. Issues relating to China's controversial 2000 census results and the reported low fertility are examined. The analysis concludes that the prevalent uncertainty about fertility levels may not only be related to the problem of data quality, but could also arise from misinterpreting fertility data and exaggerating the problem of undercounting.

Suggested Citation

  • Guangyu Zhang & Zhongwei Zhao, 2006. "Reexamining China's Fertility Puzzle: Data Collection and Quality over the Last Two Decades," Population and Development Review, The Population Council, Inc., vol. 32(2), pages 293-321, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:popdev:v:32:y:2006:i:2:p:293-321
    DOI: 10.1111/j.1728-4457.2006.00119.x

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    Cited by:

    1. Zhongwei Zhao & Guangyu Zhang, 2018. "Socioeconomic Factors Have Been the Major Driving Force of China’s Fertility Changes Since the Mid-1990s," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 55(2), pages 733-742, April.
    2. Yong Cai, 2010. "China's Below‐Replacement Fertility: Government Policy or Socioeconomic Development?," Population and Development Review, The Population Council, Inc., vol. 36(3), pages 419-440, September.
    3. Laura A. Bakkensen & Xiangying Shi & Brianna D. Zurita, 2018. "The Impact of Disaster Data on Estimating Damage Determinants and Climate Costs," Economics of Disasters and Climate Change, Springer, vol. 2(1), pages 49-71, April.
    4. Yong Cai, 2013. "China's New Demographic Reality: Learning from the 2010 Census," Population and Development Review, The Population Council, Inc., vol. 39(3), pages 371-396, September.
    5. Joshua R. Goldstein & Tomáš Sobotka & Aiva Jasilioniene, 2009. "The End of “Lowest‐Low” Fertility?," Population and Development Review, The Population Council, Inc., vol. 35(4), pages 663-699, December.
    6. Song, Shige, 2014. "Evidence of adaptive intergenerational sex ratio adjustment in contemporary human populations," Theoretical Population Biology, Elsevier, vol. 92(C), pages 14-21.
    7. Rod Tyers & Jane Golley, 2006. "China's Growth to 2030: Demographic Change and the Labour Supply Constraint," PGDA Working Papers 1106, Program on the Global Demography of Aging.
    8. S. Philip Morgan & Guo Zhigang & Sarah R. Hayford, 2009. "China's Below‐Replacement Fertility: Recent Trends and Future Prospects," Population and Development Review, The Population Council, Inc., vol. 35(3), pages 605-629, September.
    9. Feng Wang & Yong Cai & Ke Shen & Stuart Gietel-Basten, 2018. "Is Demography Just a Numerical Exercise? Numbers, Politics, and Legacies of China’s One-Child Policy," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 55(2), pages 693-719, April.
    10. Song, Shige, 2013. "Identifying the intergenerational effects of the 1959–1961 Chinese Great Leap Forward Famine on infant mortality," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 11(4), pages 474-487.
    11. Daniel Goodkind, 2011. "Child Underreporting, Fertility, and Sex Ratio Imbalance in China," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 48(1), pages 291-316, February.
    12. Jane Golley & Rod Tyers, 2006. "Demographic Change and the Labour Supply Constraint," ANU Working Papers in Economics and Econometrics 2006-467, Australian National University, College of Business and Economics, School of Economics.
    13. Ming-Chang Tsai, 2018. "Social Indicators Movement and Human Agency: Comment on Land and Michalos," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 135(3), pages 991-999, February.
    14. Wolfgang Lutz & Sergei Scherbov & Gui Ying Cao & Qiang Ren & Xiaoying Zheng, 2007. "China's uncertain demographic present and future," Vienna Yearbook of Population Research, Vienna Institute of Demography (VID) of the Austrian Academy of Sciences in Vienna, vol. 5(1), pages 37-59.

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