Revisiting "Missing the Target": Correspondence of Fertility Intentions and Behavior in the U.S.

S. Philip Morgan, Duke University
Heather M. Rackin, Duke University

Most young men and women intend to have children; two children is highly normative and the modal response. Fertility levels well below replacement result because these intentions are not met – a common occurrence in many countries. Using U.S. data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, 1979 (NLSY79), we examine the co-variation in actual fertility and fertility intentions over a three-decade period. We build on Quesnel-Vallée and Morgan (2003) who used these same data. Specifically, the younger half of the sample has now reached the end of their reproductive years, and we can explore fully the correspondence between intended and realized family size (for women and men in the 1957 to 1964 birth cohorts). We begin to examine causes for the lack of correspondence in intent and behavior by examining the effect of blended families. Blended families change fertility intentions and realizations, contingent upon where previous children reside and other factors.

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Presented in Session 17: Low Fertility