Changes in child-number desires after the birth of a child

Maria Rita Testa, Vienna Institute of Demography

Fertility intentions are the most proximate determinants of actual childbearing but they do often overestimate subsequent reproductive behaviour. While competing preferences and unexpected events may be responsible for the inconsistency, changing intentions are found to be one of the major reasons explaining why people miss their fertility target. In the paper I examine the factors affecting changing childbearing preferences by using the French longitudinal study on the life conditions of households, which was carried out in the years 1998-2003. The fertility variable used in the analysis is child-number desires because changes in child-number desires are more evident and easier to be assessed as compared to those related to the child timing. However, the two variables are strongly correlated, and we can reasonably assume that a change in child-number is accompanied by a change in the timing of the next child. First, I investigate the predictive power of child-number desires in terms of actual reproductive behaviour. The models are stratified by parity so that childless individuals and people with children are analyzed separately. Second, I examine the predictors of changing child-number desires the inter-survey period. The logistic models used for this analysis are also run separately on respondents with and without children. This is because the experience of having a child may change the individual’s life and the amount of work demanded by a baby may be only hardly estimated if people have not yet experienced parenting. Results show that those who had a child in the inter-survey period are more likely to revise their fertility intentions up, independently on whether the birth was planned or mistimed. Adjustments down of previously stated child-number desires are more likely when the child-number declared was larger than two children.

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Presented in Session 31: Fertility Intentions and their Realisation