Low fertility spread in China: A blended adaptation and diffusion explanation

Xiwei Wu, Danlin Yu, Yaojun Zhang, Ding Li, Xiaoxi Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Based on blended diffusion theory which reconciles the two mechanisms of fertility change (due to adaptation to social structure change or due to diffusion), this study examines the role of adaptation and diffusion of China's low fertility in the first decade of the 21st century. A two-period panel data set on fertility for 358 prefecture-level administrative units assembled in 2000 and 361 in 2010 population census is used. Exploratory and confirmatory analysis techniques from spatial econometrics are applied to analyze this data. Results from exploratory spatial data analysis reveal a general spatial autocorrelation for fertility and its change. Inspection with local indicators of spatial autocorrelation identifies local spatial clusters of fertility: high-value clusters in the western region and low-value clusters in northeastern and east coast areas. Total fertility rates and its change are modelled with socioeconomic and demographic factors using a spatial lag Durbin model. The results suggest that the spread of low fertility in China tends to be consistent with blended diffusion theory. Low fertility in China not only adapts to economic growth, social development and even institution structure, but also influenced by diffusion of new attitudes and ideas related to childbearing and family formation. More importantly, adaptation diffuses too. Socioeconomic circumstances in neighbouring cities often are strongly interdependent. This study highlights the importance of ‘bringing space back’ to demographic research.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2555
JournalPopulation, Space and Place
Issue number6
StatePublished - Aug 2022


  • China
  • adaptation
  • diffusion
  • low fertility
  • spatial lag Durbin model
  • spatial spillover


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