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A micro-demographic analysis of human fertility from Chinese genealogies, 1368-1911

Hu, Sijie (2020) A micro-demographic analysis of human fertility from Chinese genealogies, 1368-1911. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Identification Number: 10.21953/lse.00004223


This thesis is a micro-demographic analysis of human fertility from Chinese genealogies in the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties. It exploits a new genealogical dataset comprising 72,861 individuals from six lineages to account for the fertility decisions taken in Chinese families. Following the comprehensive micro-level analyses of a small population, the thesis demonstrates the main features at an individual level of the fertility patterns and the relationships between demographic outcomes and social outcomes in imperial China. This thesis consists of three substantive chapters. The first constructs the marital fertility levels and provides the ongoing debate with quantitative evidence on whether the Chinese consciously practised fertility controls in the pre-modern era. The second substantive chapter shows the social gradients in fertility and examines the mechanisms through which social status affected fertility. The third expands the reproductive success story of a single generation into a multi-generational one, focusing on the process of transmitting fertility choices across generations and the effects of family size on the quality of the children. The three chapters together exhibit the micro-demographic dynamics in Chinese families from the fourteenth to the twentieth centuries. The thesis shows that Ming-Qing China had a moderate fertility level, with no deliberate fertility controls. Throughout the entire period, climbing up the social ladder could significantly increase men’s net reproduction through increasing their marriage chances and the number of marriages they could have. Moreover, elites in traditional China also managed to transmit reproductive success to their offspring, mainly by passing on their high social outcomes. Family size could also affect the quality of the offspring, but the effect was not powerful enough to bring about any change in parents’ fertility choices.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2020 Sijie Hu
Library of Congress subject classification: D History General and Old World > DS Asia
H Social Sciences > HC Economic History and Conditions
H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Woman
Sets: Departments > Economic History
Supervisor: Cummins, Neil and Ma, Debin

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