Parity, Timing and Level of Fertility: A Comparative Study on Mean Age at Childbearing in China, Japan and South Korea

  • Jian SongEmail author
  • Jingwen Zhang
Open Access


Using fertility data from national surveys and population censuses for China, Japan and South Korea, this study analyzes the levels and trends of mean age at childbearing (MAC) in the three countries from 1990 to 2015. After using the decomposition technique to isolate the effects of parity composition and childbearing schedule in each of the three countries, the article presents a quantitative examination of the factors that underlie dynamic changes and cross-national differences of MACs. Results indicate that the MAC of China experienced a decrease between 1990 and 1995, followed by sustained growth afterwards. The increase of MAC in China has been driven by the postponement of childbearing and changes in parity composition, with the former playing a larger role. The mechanisms underlying the patterns since 2010 deserve special attention. Compared with Japan and South Korea, China has had relatively lower MAC during the last 25 years; the three countries demonstrate different patterns in terms of the roles of parity composition and birth timing. The accuracy of MAC in identifying the timing of period fertility and the policy implications of timing on upturning fertility level are discussed.

Key words

Mean age at childbearing Parity composition Fertility postponement Low fertility level Population of East Asia 



This research is supported by the Project Study on Family Transition in China (16JJD840013) of the Key Research Centers of Minister of Education.


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Copyright information

© China Population and Development Research Center 2015

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Population and Development StudiesRenmin University of ChinaBeijingChina
  2. 2.School of Sociology and Population StudiesRenmin University of ChinaBeijingChina

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