Underreporting of births and infant deaths in rural China: evidence from field research in one county of northern China
This is a study of two parallel but distinct data collection systems in Ciqixian, a mostly rural district of Zibo city in Shandong province: the family planning demographic and contraceptive surveillance system and the registers maintained by the health system. A comparison of the sets of birth records maintained by the two agencies can provide evidence of underreporting in family planning records: one hypothesis is that health records may be more complete than family planning records because the health system is plausibly not subject to the same political and administrative issues. But the analysis of data alone says little about the ways in which individual and programmatic priorities combine to produce anomalies in the recording of demographic events. It does not tell us why underreporting occurs and what the consequences of this are. This study is also an ethnography of the statistical-administrative apparatus in a Chinese rural area where the family planning policy is vigorously enforced. Evidence from conservations with family planning and health workers are brought to bear on questions that are closely intertwined within the contours of the Chinese family planning programme - questions of policy, politics, state control on reproduction and the relationship between peasant society and the rural bureaucratic structure.