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Fertility preferences: what measuring second choices teaches us


  • Anne Gauthier
  • Christoph Bühler
  • Joshua Goldstein
  • Saskia Hin


This article aims to strengthen the research methodology for studies of fertility preferences. Knowledge of personal fertility ideals is important both for demographers and policy makers, but the measurement techniques currently employed are not very refined. We suggest that the information provided by asking people about their personal ideal number of offspring can be improved in quality when asking them to also consider alternative preferences. The results of a survey conducted in the Netherlands demonstrate how measuring second (and, if desired, further) choices improves our ability to differentiate between different population subgroups. Moreover, it brings to light individuals' openness to their `second best ideals'. Including questions on alternative ideals in surveys thus enhances the qualitative potential of studies on fertility ideals and adds a new dimension to research on the how and why of fertility gaps between desired and achieved fertility.

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  • Anne Gauthier & Christoph Bühler & Joshua Goldstein & Saskia Hin, 2011. "Fertility preferences: what measuring second choices teaches us," Vienna Yearbook of Population Research, Vienna Institute of Demography (VID) of the Austrian Academy of Sciences in Vienna, vol. 9(1), pages 131-156.
  • Handle: RePEc:vid:yearbk:v:9:y:2011:i:1:p:131-156

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Ian Dey & Fran Wasoff, 2010. "Another Child? Fertility Ideals, Resources and Opportunities," Population Research and Policy Review, Springer;Southern Demographic Association (SDA), vol. 29(6), pages 921-940, December.
    2. Lolagene Coombs, 1979. "Reproductive goals and achieved fertility: A fifteen-year perspective," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 16(4), pages 523-534, November.
    3. William Axinn & Marin Clarkberg & Arland Thornton, 1994. "Family influences on family size preferences," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 31(1), pages 65-79, February.
    4. Catherine Hakim, 2003. "A New Approach to Explaining Fertility Patterns: Preference Theory," Population and Development Review, The Population Council, Inc., vol. 29(3), pages 349-374.
    5. John Knodel & Visid Prachuabmoh, 1973. "Desired family size in Thailand: Are the responses meaningful?," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 10(4), pages 619-637, November.
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    Cited by:

    1. Kuhnt, Anne-Kristin & Buhr, Petra, 2016. "Biographical risks and their impact on uncertainty in fertility expectations: A gender-specific study based on the German Family Panel," Duisburger Beiträge zur soziologischen Forschung 2016-03, University of Duisburg-Essen, Institute of Sociology.
    2. Maria Rita Testa & Valeria Bordone & Beata Osiewalska & Vegard Skirbekk, 2016. "Are daughters’ childbearing intentions related to their mothers’ socio-economic status?," Demographic Research, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 35(21), pages 581-616, September.
    3. Maria Rita Testa & Stuart Gietel-Basten, 2014. "Certainty of meeting fertility intentions declines in Europe during the 'Great Recession'," Demographic Research, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 31(23), pages 687-734, September.

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