National Count Reveals Major Societal Changes

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Date: June 8, 2001
From: Science(Vol. 292, Issue 5523)
Publisher: American Association for the Advancement of Science
Document Type: Brief article
Length: 890 words

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China's population is becoming older, better educated, and more transient. It is also harder to track, resulting in a big jump in the census undercount

BEIJING--When China's National Bureau of Statistics declared this spring that it had counted 1.266 billion people in the country's fifth national census, it confirmed China's status as the world's most populous nation. But another number--the estimated 22 million people the census missed--may provide a better indicator of how China has changed. Experts say that the undercount, some 30 times larger than that in the last census a decade ago, reflects the impact of a rising standard of living, growing concern about privacy, and a large but elusive migrant population. In addition, the process of allocating it demonstrates how politics interacts with statistics in China's socialist bureaucracy.

Demographers say that the overall count rings true, based on predictions of 1.27 or 1.28 billion (Science, 17 November 2000, p. 1288). "It's a little bit lower than our projection, but it's basically accurate," says Zhai Zhenwu, a demographer at People's University of China in Beijing. Even so, the net undercount of 1.81%, based on postcensus sampling, is a huge jump from the official Fates of 0.06% in the 1990 census and 0.015% in 1982. The current number falls within international standards--2% is considered "acceptable," says Y. C. Yu, former head...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A75819631