Below Replacement Fertility Preferences in Shanghai

By M. Giovanna Merli, S. Philip Morgan


China has joined the group of low-fertility countries; it has a total fertility rate somewhere in the range of 1.4 to 1.6. Much speculation about China’s future fertility depends on whether individual’s fertility intentions and preferences are much higher than the state’s fertility goals. If so, then a relaxation of family planning restrictions could lead to a substantial fertility increase. We directly asked a probability sample of Shanghai registered residents and migrants whether a policy relaxation would lead them to have additional children. Our results show that small families (one or two children) are intended in this urban setting. If family planning policy were relaxed, a relatively small fraction (fewer than 14%) report that they would revise their intentions upward. Even this modest increase (as much as 10%) is suspect because factors that can deflate fertility relative to intentions are likely more powerful than the inflationary ones (in Shanghai). These empirical findings help ground speculations on the future of fertility in the hypothetical absence of policy constraints.


  • China
  • fertility
  • fertility preferences
  • population policy
  • Shanghai
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