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The Correspondence Between Fertility Intentions and Behavior in the United States

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  • S. Philip Morgan
  • Heather Rackin

Abstract

Using data from the 1979 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, we describe the correspondence between intended family size and observed fertility for US men and women in the 1957-64 birth cohorts. Mean fertility intentions calculated from reports given in the mid-20s modestly overstate completed fertility. But discrepancies between stated intent and actual fertility are common-the stated intent at age 24 (for both women and men) is more likely to miss than to match completed fertility. We focus on factors that predict which women and men will have fewer or more children than intended. Consistent with life-course arguments, those unmarried, childless, or (for women) still in school at approximately age 24 were most likely to underachieve their intended parity (i.e., had fewer children than intended at age 24). We discuss how such discrepancies between intentions and behavior may cumulate to produce sizable cross-group fertility differences. Copyright (c) 2010 The Population Council, Inc..

Suggested Citation

  • S. Philip Morgan & Heather Rackin, 2010. "The Correspondence Between Fertility Intentions and Behavior in the United States," Population and Development Review, The Population Council, Inc., vol. 36(1), pages 91-118.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:popdev:v:36:y:2010:i:1:p:91-118
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. John Bongaarts, 2002. "The End of the Fertility Transition in the Developed World," Population and Development Review, The Population Council, Inc., vol. 28(3), pages 419-443.
    2. Kellie J. Hagewen & S. Philip Morgan, 2005. "Intended and Ideal Family Size in the United States, 1970-2002," Population and Development Review, The Population Council, Inc., vol. 31(3), pages 507-527.
    3. Joshua R. Goldstein & Tomás Sobotka & Aiva Jasilioniene, 2009. "The End of "Lowest-Low" Fertility?," Population and Development Review, The Population Council, Inc., vol. 35(4), pages 663-699.
    4. S. Philip Morgan, 2003. "Is low fertility a twenty-first-century demographic crisis?," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 40(4), pages 589-603, November.
    5. Elizabeth Thomson & Elaine McDonald & Larry Bumpass, 1990. "Fertility desires and fertility: Hers, his, and theirs," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 27(4), pages 579-588, November.
    6. S. Morgan, 1985. "Individual and couple intentions for more children: A research note," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 22(1), pages 125-132, February.
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    Cited by:

    1. Isabella Buber-Ennser & Ralina Panova & Jürgen Dorbritz, 2013. "Fertility Intentions Of University Graduates," Demográfia English Edition, Hungarian Demographic Research Institute, vol. 56(5), pages 5-34.
    2. repec:spr:eurpop:v:33:y:2017:i:3:d:10.1007_s10680-016-9408-y is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Moore, Ann M. & Keogh, Sarah & Kavanaugh, Megan & Bankole, Akinrinola & Mulambia, Chishimba & Mutombo, Namuunda, 2014. "Bucking social norms: Examining anomalous fertility aspirations in the face of HIV in Lusaka, Zambia," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 119(C), pages 88-97.
    4. repec:dem:demres:v:38:y:2018:i:25 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Zsolt Spéder & Balázs Kapitány, 2014. "Failure to Realize Fertility Intentions: A Key Aspect of the Post-communist Fertility Transition," Population Research and Policy Review, Springer;Southern Demographic Association (SDA), vol. 33(3), pages 393-418, June.
    6. Soo-Yeon Yoon, 2017. "The influence of a supportive environment for families on women’s fertility intentions and behavior in South Korea," Demographic Research, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 36(7), pages 227-254, January.
    7. Bassford, Micaela & Fisher, Hayley, 2016. "Bonus babies? The impact of paid parental leave on fertility intentions," Working Papers 2016-04, University of Sydney, School of Economics.
    8. John Casterline & Siqi Han, 2017. "Unrealized fertility: Fertility desires at the end of the reproductive career," Demographic Research, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 36(14), pages 427-454, January.
    9. Wei-hsin Yu & Janet Chen-Lan Kuo, 2017. "Another work-family interface: Work characteristics and family intentions in Japan," Demographic Research, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 36(13), pages 391-426, January.
    10. repec:spr:eurpop:v:33:y:2017:i:4:d:10.1007_s10680-017-9429-1 is not listed on IDEAS

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