Fertility Levels and Trends in North Korea

Short Papers
By Thomas Spoorenberg

This short paper contributes additional evidence to the existing body of knowledge on demographic changes in North Korea by studying fertility levels and trends over the last three decades. Using as many estimates of total fertility as possible derived from various data sources (censuses, sample surveys and vital registration system) and computed using diverse estimation methods, we show that the demographic data from North Korea are remarkably consistent for the study of fertility. Total fertility in North Korea declined from about 3.0 children per woman in 1980 to about 2.0 in 1998 and remained around that level until 2008. This paper also provides original empirical evidence about what happened to fertility during the tumultuous period between the mid-1990s and the early 2000s in North Korea.


  • fertility
  • estimation
  • reverse survival method
  • data quality
  • North Korea
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