This paper grounds its analysis in a novel model (Bachrach and Morgan in Popul Dev Rev, 39:459–485, 2013) that suggests that responses to questions about fertility intentions may reflect distinct phenomena at distinct points in the life course. The model suggests that women form "true" intentions when their circumstances make the issue of childbearing salient and urgent enough to draw the cognitive resources needed to make a conscious plan; before this, women report intentions based on cognitive images of family and self. We test the implications of this model for reported fertility expectations using NLSY79 data that measure expectations throughout the life course. We find that early in the life course, before marriage and parenthood, women’s fertility expectations are associated with family background and cognitive images of family and future self. Later in the life course, as women experience life course transitions that confer statuses normatively associated with childbearing—such as marriage—and parenthood itself, their reported expectations are better predictors of their fertility than before they passed these life course milestones. Our empirical results provide support for a model which has important implications for both the measurement and conceptualization of women’s intended and expected fertility.
Population Research and Policy Review – Springer Journals
Published: May 12, 2016
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