Declining cohort fertility in China: persistent differences by education and household registration

Siyu Tian, Peking University

Although fertility estimates for China differ widely, all studies show that China has become a low-fertility country, with below-replacement fertility reached in the early 1990s. Period fertility trends in China have been extensively researched. In contrast, cohort fertility changes have been relatively little analyzed. Furthermore, many studies have analyzed wide urban-rural differences in Chinese fertility, but only very limited attention has been paid to education differences in fertility decline. This is surprising considering that highly educated women in many countries were forerunners of the shift towards low fertility and that rising education has been identified as one of the key drivers of fertility decline. I argue that education has been a neglected factor in Chinese fertility decline that merits detailed investigation. Using data from the 2000 population census and a sample from the 2005 one-percent census in China I reconstruct fertility trends by household registration (urban vs. rural) and by education among the women born between 1949 and 1964. These cohorts are of particular interest as they experienced a rapid expansion of secondary education and were having children in the times of the shift towards sub-replacement fertility in the country. I look at the completed cohort fertility and its main components—parity progression ratio and the distribution of women by the number of children. The analysis demonstrates a wide gap between women with urban and rural residence, but also huge educational differentials in fertility among urban residents, which are most pronounced in the second birth rates. The contrasts in fertility among urban residents remain striking, with fewer than 20% of higher educated women born in the mid-1960s progressing to the second birth as compared with a majority (over 60%) of women with lower than secondary education.

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 Presented in Session P2. Poster Session 2