Fertility trends in rural China in the 1980s: Cohort effect versus period effect

Type Journal Article - Asia-Pacific Population Journal
Title Fertility trends in rural China in the 1980s: Cohort effect versus period effect
Volume 6
Issue 4
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 1991
Page numbers 3-34
URL http://www.unescapsdd.org/files/documents/PUB_APPJ-Vol-6-No-4.pdf
While the dramatic decline in fertility in China in the 1970s has been
acknowledged worldwide and is very well documented in the demographic
literature both at home and abroad (China Population Information Center,
1984; Coale, 1984, among others), China’s fertility and related population
trends in the 1980s have evoked much concern and discussion in recentyears (Hardee-Cleveland and Banister, 1988; Zeng, 1989; Kaufman et al.,
1989; Greenhalgh, 1989, 1990; Tien, 1990a; Aird, 1990; Poston, 1991, among
Although fertility in urban China had already declined to far below the
replacement level before the beginning of the 1980s (Coale and Chen,
1987), fertility in rural areas continued to have a very strong effect on the
fertility trends of the whole country. Thus, rural fertility has been the major
focus of China’s population control and family planning programmes,
remaining the centre of concern during the 1980s.
Several recent studies (Feeney et al., 1989; Luther et al., 1990; Coale et
al., 1991) have addressed the issue of fertility trends in China during the
1980s and generated many insights which were very valuable to the present
study. However, mainly owing to limitations in the available data, their
studies had to resort either to indirect estimation procedures in reconstructing
the birth history of women, or work with a subsample of the data set,
which would allow only an analysis of the fertility trends in a general sense
and at the national level rather than a disaggregation of overall fertility data
to observe the fertility variations among the subregions (provinces,
autonomous regions and municipalities) of the country.2/
The data from the 1988 Two-Per-Thousand Fertility Sampling Survey
of China provide an excellent opportunity for conducting an overall
assessment of fertility trends, particularly in rural areas during the 1980s,
and provide a basis for predicting population and fertility trends in both
rural areas and China as a whole in the 1990s.
In this article, we shall first examine the fertility trends over the
decade of the 1980s for rural China, paying particular attention to the
relationship between the cohort effect and period effect of fertility. Second,
we shall examine the variations in fertility among the subregions of rural
China by the end of the decade. The analyses will demonstrate in detail
that, in the decade of the 1980s, fertility in rural China in terms of the number
of children per woman had been further controlled, while the timing of
both marriage and child-bearing had moved downward. As a result, “birthbunching”
became a nationwide and decade-long phenomenon characterizing
the fertility trends in rural China in the 1980s. Third, we shall discuss
the important implications of rural China’s fertility trends in the 1980s
to the fertility trends and family planning programmes in the years leading
to the beginning of the twenty-first century.

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