Institute of Public and International Affairs (IPIA)
Family size and support of older adults in urban and rural China: current effects and future implications
China will experience rapid growth in the proportion and number of older people in its population in the near future as a consequence of an extraordinarily rapid decline in fertility over the past several decades. Total fertility rates were as high as 7.5 in the early 1950s, but have fallen to below replacement level in recent years, with the sharpest declines occurring in the late 1970s and early 1980s, around the time that China began implementing its one-child policy (Liu 1988; Poston 1992; T.H. Yuan et al. 1992). The aging of China has also been influenced by a decline in infant mortality during and after the 1950s, which increased survivorship among a “baby-boom” cohort, who were subsequently the first to experience a rapid decline in fertility and the one-child policy (Zhenghua and Lingguang 2000). Thus, China now has a large cohort of adults who are in or nearing the end of their childbearing ages and are experiencing much lower birth rates than did their predecessors. This next generation of elderly persons will make up more than 20% of China’s total population and will put the proportion of older adults in China on par with or surpassing that in Western developed countries.