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China's population by age and sex in 1990 (Based on 1990 Population Census)

Source: National Bureau of Statistics of China (1992): 1990 Population Census of China.

This population pyramid from the 1990 census tells the dramatic story of China's population history for several decades. For instance, one can see China's "baby boom" which peaked in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The baby boom actually started in the 1950 with those generations that - in 1990 - were 35 to 40 years of age. Then the demographic disaster of the "Great Leap Forward" cut down the cohorts to half their size. The number of people that were 28 to 31 years of age in 1990 (that is, they were born between 1959 and 1963) is substantially smaller than the generations before and afterwards. This severe "cut" in China's age structure is due to the deficit of birth during the Great Leap Forward. It is well known that during severe famine years fertility declines sharply. After the Great Leap Forward births rapidly increased again. The largest cohorts were between 16 and 26 years of age in 1990 - that is they where born between 1964 and 1974.

Then the Chinese family planning program obviously took effect. The birth cohorts rapidly declined. Those children, that were between 4 and 11 in 1990, belonged to the smallest birth cohorts after the baby boom. They were born between 1978 and 1985.

At the bottom of the Chinese population pyramid one can again see large cohorts, that were born between 1985 and 1990. They are almost as large as the birth cohorts during the "baby boom" years. However, these large number of birth are just the "echo effect" of the baby boom between the mid-1960s and mid-1970s. The large baby boom generation had their (first) children - and despite the fact, that each couple should have had only one child, the total number of births was high, because of the large number of parents. The average fertility during the early 1990s was also still more than two children.

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This data section was updated on 18 December 2011

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Copyright 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 by Gerhard K. Heilig. All rights reserved. - 18 April 2012