Below Replacement Fertility in China: How Important is the One Child Policy?

Zhenzhen Zheng, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences

Will China experience a substantial baby boom should the one-child policy be abandoned? By using the results of Jiangsu Fertility Intention and Behavior Survey (JFIBS), this paper examines childbearing behavior, intention, and opinion of Chinese couples who are eligible to have two children according to the local birth control policy. The survey was conducted during 2006-2007 in Jiangsu province of China and collected information on fertility desire, attitude of childbearing, childbearing plan, fertility history, and socioeconomic and demographic factors affecting fertility. The main findings indicate that the ideal number of children, fertility intention and actual fertility are far below the replacement level, and also less than the number of children required by the birth control policy in the studies area. Birth control policy still affects people’s fertility desire and behavior, but is no longer the most important determinant; childbearing decision is influenced jointly by economic, social, and cultural factors. With a focus on the cost and benefit of childbearing from the women’s perspective, it is found that spiritual satisfaction is the most important reason for having a child, but the cost of childrearing became the major consideration for having the second one. With women’s social-demographic characteristics controlled for, economic constraint, opportunity cost and perceived cost of childbearing all have significant effects on women’s childbearing plan of the second child. A follow-up survey is planned by the end of 2009, allowing a further exploration of the relationship between intended and actual childbearing.

Presented in Session 37: China’s One Child Policy after 30 years – Time for a Change?