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Maternal Expectations and Ex Post Rationalizations: The Usefulness of Survey Information on the Wantedness of Children

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  • Mark R. Rosenzweig
  • Kenneth I. Wolpin

Abstract

In this paper we assess the value of retrospectively-ascertained information on the wantedness of children by evaluating (i) the extent to which such information provides an unbiased estimate of the excess births occurring solely as a consequence of imperfect fertility control and (ii) whether information on the wantedness of a child is a good predictor of its subsequent treatment by parents-whether unwantedness signals neglect. We formulate a dynamic model of fertility incorporating stochastic fertility control, uncertain child traits and information accumulation from which we can formulate a rigorous definition of child-specific unwantedness. Based on information on both retrospectively obtained and pre-birth information on wantedness and on children's birthweight, we find that parents are more likely to report that children are wanted ex post if they have a better birth outcome and exhibit overly optimistic expectations about their children's traits and/or risk preferences. As a consequence, published statistics on the prevalence of unwanted births over-state the true proportion due to contraceptive failure by 26 percent.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by University of Wisconsin Press in its journal Journal of Human Resources.

Volume (Year): 28 (1993)
Issue (Month): 2 ()
Pages: 205-229

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Handle: RePEc:uwp:jhriss:v:28:y:1993:i:2:p:205-229

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Web page: http://jhr.uwpress.org/

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Cited by:
  1. Rasul, Imran, 2008. "Household bargaining over fertility: Theory and evidence from Malaysia," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 86(2), pages 215-241, June.
  2. Quy-Toan Do & Tung Duc Phung, 2010. "The Importance of Being Wanted," Working Papers id:2515, eSocialSciences.
  3. Martha J. Bailey, 2013. "Fifty Years of Family Planning: New Evidence on the Long-Run Effects of Increasing Access to Contraception," NBER Working Papers 19493, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. John Casterline & Laila El-Zeini, 2007. "The estimation of Unwanted Fertility," Demography, Springer, vol. 44(4), pages 729-745, November.
  5. Handa, Sudhanshu, 2000. "The Impact of Education, Income, and Mortality on Fertility in Jamaica," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 28(1), pages 173-186, January.
  6. Valente, Christine, 2014. "Access to abortion, investments in neonatal health, and sex-selection: Evidence from Nepal," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 107(C), pages 225-243.

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