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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. Copyright 2006 The Population Council, Inc..

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.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:popdev:v:32:y:2006:i:2:p:293-321

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Dreze, Jean & Sen, Amartya, 2002. "India: Development and Participation," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, edition 2, number 9780199257492, June.
    2. Prabir C. Bhattacharya, 2004. "Economic Development, Gender Inequality and Demographic Outcomes: Evidence from India," Working Papers E01, Department of Economics, School of Management and Languages, Heriot Watt University.
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    Cited by:

    1. 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.
    2. Joshua R. Goldstein & Tomás Sobotka & Aiva Jasilioniene, 2009. "The End of "Lowest-Low" Fertility?," Population and Development Review, The Population Council, Inc., vol. 35(4), pages 663-699.
    3. 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.
    4. 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.
    5. 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.
    6. 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.
    7. 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.
    8. 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.
    9. repec:eee:thpobi:v:92:y:2014:i:c:p:14-21 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. 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.

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