Is China Headed for Very Low Fertility? Fertility Desire, Intention, and Outcomes

Zhenzhen Zheng, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences
Yong Cai, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Feng Wang, University of California, Irvine
Baochang Gu, Renmin University of China

More than two decades after China’s fertility dropped to below replacement level, there is no sign of reversing its downward trend, even after a major reform in its birth control policy. This paper examines China’s fertility future by analyzing data from a longitudinal survey in Jiangsu province, which followed fertility attitudes and behaviors of reproductive aged women in 2007, 2010 and 2014. By examining the factors and deliberations behind family’s fertility decision, we demonstrate that fertility in China is under a great pressure from rising economic costs and opportunity costs of children, intensifying social competition, and rapidly evolving norms of marriage and family. Without swept policy reforms and social changes, we project that China is headed for very low fertility, just like its neighbors in the East Asia region.

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 Presented in Session P3. Fertility Intentions and Behaviors