Fertility, Child Underreporting, and Sex Ratios in China: A Closer Look at the New Consensus

Daniel M. Goodkind, U.S. Census Bureau

We compare child counts in China’s 2005 sample census to counts projected to that year based on the 1990 census and official fertility statistics. Implied age patterns of underreporting in 2005 suggest that official statistics overstate China’s true fertility in the late 1990s, a conclusion shared by a “new consensus” of China demographers. Yet key assumptions proposed by the new consensus are themselves flawed, and child underreporting issues are again key to understanding these flaws. The new consensus could be cited and promoted for policy intervention – the lower China’s fertility is believed to be, the more likely its authorities would conclude that family planning restrictions are no longer needed. We conduct a similar analysis of sex ratios of children and births from 1982 to 2005 – such ratios are now the world’s highest, although due to excess underreporting of daughters, our estimated ratios are lower than the reported ratios often quoted.

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Presented in Session 115: The Relationship between Fertility and Family Planning