Missing the target? Correspondence of fertility intentions and behavior in the U.S
Building on a framework suggested by Bongaarts (2001) and using data from the 1979 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, we describe the correspondence between intended family size and observed fertility for the 1957 to 1961 birth cohorts of U.S. women and men. Over an 18-year period (1982-2000), we show that while aggregate intentions are quite stable, discrepancies are very common at the individual level. Women and men were more likely to err in predicting number of additional births in the period 1982-2000 than to hit their target number. A very strong predictor of over- and underachieving fertility is initial intended parity. Those who intended more than two children tended to have fewer children than intended, while those who intended fewer than two children tended to have more children than intended. In addition and consistent with life course arguments, those unmarried in 1982, childless in 1982, and (for women) still in school in 1982 were most likely to underachieve their 2000 intended parity (i.e., have fewer children than intended). We conclude by reflecting on how the circumstances that allow discrepancies between intentions and behavior to almost "balance" in the U.S. may cumulate differently elsewhere to produce much lower fertility. © 2004 Kluwer Academic Publishers.
Quesnel-Vallée, A; Morgan, SP
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