Papers

Working Papers:

Descendants over Half a Millennium: Marital Fertility in Five Chinese Lineages, 1400-1900

  • The paper studies the marital fertility of five Chinese lineages in Southeast China from 1400 to 1900. By exploiting new genealogical data and studying more than 20,000 individuals in the five lineages, a unique Chinese marital fertility pattern is demonstrated. On the one hand, contrary to conventional wisdom on Chinese fertility, the results show that the marital fertility rates in the period were much lower compared to those of Northwest Europe in similar periods. On the other hand, in line with the classic ideas, the paper finds no clear signs of parity-dependent controls within marriages. The results suggest that imperial China was still largely a “natural fertility” regime, only with some “controlled” characteristics.


  • I use the genealogical records of 35,691 men to test one of the fundamental assumptions of the Malthusian model. Did higher living standards result in increased net reproduction? For China, 1400-1900, I find a positive status-fertility relationship. The gentry scholars, the Confucians, produced more than twice as many sons as the commoners. The social gradients were However, this status effect on fertility disappears once I control for the number of wives. Reproductive success in Imperial China was driven by the upper class’s advantage in having more wives. The results also shed light on understanding the persistence of Confucianism in Chinese society.


The Beckerian and the Darwinian Trade-off of Children in Chinese Families: Transmission of Fertility across Generations in China, 1400-1900.

This paper uses the genealogical records of 36,456 males to construct the survival pattern of six Chinese lineages from 1400 to 1900. I first test for a Darwinian trade-off between short-run reproduction and long-run survival in the six lineages. The empirical results indicate an optimal level of net fertility for long-run reproductive success. I then examine the mechanisms through which fertility affected the long-run survival by analysing the presence of the Beckerian trade-off, the relationship between fathers’ fertility and two types of quality in sons: whether they could get married and whether they were literate. Because that the practice of offering sons for adoption induced a random variation in family size, I instrument family size with the adoption practice. The IV estimates find that having more brothers in 1600-1800 would reduce the probability that a male would be literate, and in 1800-1900 would make him less likely to marry. Nevertheless, it was not family size so much as father’s human capital that was of the central importance in affecting a son’s quality.