The gap between fertility ideals and reality in East Asia: a mixed method comparative study of Beijing and Taiwan

East Asian settings currently have some of the lowest fertility rates in the world, leading to rapidly ageing populations as well as important consequences for the labour force, social welfare and migration. This project sought to explore the underlying context of such low birth rates by examining fertility ideals and intentions in a comparative context: namely Taiwan and Beijing Municipality.

The project took a mixed-methods approach. Firstly, existing surveys of fertility ideals and intentions were subjected to in-depth statistical analysis in order to identify some of the key determinants of small family ideation and outcome. Secondly, these determinants were explored in greater depth in a pilot qualitative study in the two regions.

The project attempted to examine whether or not small families have become ‘normalised’ and judge the extent to which this could shape medium-term trends in fertility. By performing a comparative analysis, the project attempted to identify and isolate the role of family planning restrictions in China in shaping these changes.

The outcomes of the project were fed into the family and population policy discourse in China, Taiwan and elsewhere in East Asia through a series of stakeholder workshops and policy briefs.

Watch the ESRC Impact Prize video, Rewriting global population forecasts:

Former DSPI Principal Investigator: Stuart Basten

Funded by: Economic & Social Research Council

Completed: 2015


Basten, Stuart, Verropoulou, Georgia, Ma Xiaohong, Yan Ping (2015) " Indifferent Gender Preferences among Childless Beijing Citizens", Finnish Yearbook of Population Research 2015 71-84

Basten, S.A. (2015) "Fertility decline", Zhao, Z. and A. Hayes ed.,Routledge Handbook of Asian Demography. Abingdon: Routledge

Basten, S.A. and Jiang, Q. (2015) "Fertility in China: An uncertain future", Population Studies 69: s1 s97-s109. doi: 10.1080/00324728.2014.982898