Fertility by parity in China in the context of changing fertility policy
The study aims to investigate the dynamics of fertility by parity of Chinese women over the past seven decades under the context of changing fertility policy. Using data from population censuses, population sample surveys, and fertility surveys in China, the study estimates China’s fertility by parity from 1949 to 2020 by adopting multiple fertility measures, including parity-specific total fertility rate, parity progression ratio, parity-progression-ratio-based total fertility rate, and cumulated cohort fertility rate, as well as the decomposition method. The study further evaluates the unique features of China’s configuration of parity-specific fertility through an international comparative analysis of some Western countries based on data from the Human Fertility Database. It shows that in China, both the rigid fertility policy of restricting the number and timing/spacing of children implemented since the early 1980s and the recent relaxation of fertility policy of gradually easing the number and timing/spacing of children have had a significant impact on fertility patterns and levels, especially for parity two. However, the effect of fertility policy relaxation in a low-fertility context has been less sustainable than the earlier rigid fertility policy that contributed to the rapid decline in fertility for second and higher orders of parity. Under the joint influence of the Confucian fertility culture, rapid socioeconomic growth, and the internalization of long-standing strict fertility policies, China has formed a unique pattern of parity-specific fertility profile compared to those of some developed societies, with a universal progression to the first birth, a very low but policy sensitive progression to the second birth, and an extremely low progression to the third birth.
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