Recent Trends in Fertility and Nuptiality in China

Science  25 Jan 1991:
Vol. 251, Issue 4992, pp. 389-393
DOI: 10.1126/science.251.4992.389


The State Family Planning Commission of China has conducted two large-scale fertility surveys, in 1982 and 1988, covering sample households containing 1 million and 2 million persons, respectively. These surveys obtained lifetime histories, including age at first marriage and at each birth for female members of the households from ages 15 to 67 in the first survey and from 15 to 57 in the second. The data provide detailed information on the extraordinary decline in the rate of childbearing in China (by 60% from 1970 to 1980). Because rising age at marriage played a significant role in this decline, the effect of changes in the pattern of entry into marriage on childbearing since 1980 was examined. There was a sharp increase in overall fertility (the total fertility rate) from 1980 to 1982; after falling to slightly below the 1980 level in 1985, the rate rose in 1985 and 1986 to well above that of 1980. A major factor in this arrested and partially reversed decline was a boom in marriage that followed a relaxation in 1980 of locally administered restrictions on marriage before the officially designated desirable age. In fact, the total fertility rate of married women (summed over duration of marriage rather than age) averaged much lower in the mid-1980s than in 1980. The summary rate of bearing second children increased markedly in the 1980s when calculated by age of women, but declined when calculated by duration of marriage, given the inflated number of recently married women.