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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.

Suggested Citation

  • Mark R. Rosenzweig & Kenneth I. Wolpin, 1993. "Maternal Expectations and Ex Post Rationalizations: The Usefulness of Survey Information on the Wantedness of Children," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 28(2), pages 205-229.
  • Handle: RePEc:uwp:jhriss:v:28:y:1993:i:2:p:205-229
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Wanchuan Lin & Juan Pantano, 2015. "The unintended: negative outcomes over the life cycle," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 28(2), pages 479-508, April.
    2. Seema Jayachandran, 2017. "Fertility Decline and Missing Women," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 9(1), pages 118-139, January.
    3. 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.
    4. repec:spr:jopoec:v:31:y:2018:i:3:d:10.1007_s00148-018-0697-9 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Emily Smith-Greenaway & Christie Sennott, 2016. "Death and Desirability: Retrospective Reporting of Unintended Pregnancy After a Child’s Death," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 53(3), pages 805-834, June.
    6. Martha J. Bailey, 2013. "Fifty Years of Family Planning: New Evidence on the Long-Run Effects of Increasing Access to Contraception," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 44(1 (Spring), pages 341-409.
    7. John Casterline & Laila El-Zeini, 2007. "The estimation of Unwanted Fertility," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 44(4), pages 729-745, November.
    8. Handa, Sudhanshu, 2000. "The Impact of Education, Income, and Mortality on Fertility in Jamaica," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 28(1), pages 173-186, January.
    9. Rasul, Imran, 2008. "Household bargaining over fertility: Theory and evidence from Malaysia," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 86(2), pages 215-241, June.
    10. Quy-Toan Do & Tung D. Phung, 2010. "The Importance of Being Wanted," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 2(4), pages 236-253, October.
    11. Nuevo-Chiquero, Ana, 2014. "The labor force effects of unplanned childbearing," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 29(C), pages 91-101.

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