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How real are reproductive goals? Uncertainty and the construction of fertility preferences

How real are reproductive goals? Uncertainty and the construction of fertility preferences
How real are reproductive goals? Uncertainty and the construction of fertility preferences
The underlying reality of fertility intentions, expectations and preferences tends to be taken for granted. This is a natural consequence of the assumption, implicit or explicit in most demographic research, that fertility behaviour is governed by rational choice. We question the reality of fertility intentions, expectations, and preferences, and propose instead that they are by and large constructed. Drawing on behavioural economics, psychology, and political science, we develop an outline theory of fertility intentions and preferences that contrasts with the classical rational choice model assumed in most work in this area.

We show that there is a relatively high frequency of uncertain responses to questions on fertility intentions and expectations and argue that the uncertainty expressed is genuine. It was largely in response to this finding that our theoretical approach was developed. The presence of uncertain answers to preference and intentions questions is acknowledged in most demographic surveys but their frequency and theoretical and empirical significance has been largely neglected.

Preferred family size may, we suggest, be a discovery rather than a goal. Demographic thinking about fertility decisions could be enriched by adopting the idea of constructed preferences from behavioural economics and psychology, together with ideas and debates in political science regarding survey response. The construction of fertility preferences and intentions can account for some hitherto unexplained anomalies in survey findings on fertility intentions and expectations. Preference construction theory provides a novel perspective on fertility intentions and preferences and on family building behaviour, and merits serious empirical investigation in this contex
73
ESRC Centre for Population Change
Ni Bhrolchain, Maire
cbe99807-1f4d-49c5-94e8-9f1d68aa7e6b
Beaujouan, Eva
d6fd2b1a-90ba-4fe5-8fcb-d6535e1377e3
McGowan, Teresa
4524e894-04de-4822-8508-f4b966e12ae2
Ni Bhrolchain, Maire
cbe99807-1f4d-49c5-94e8-9f1d68aa7e6b
Beaujouan, Eva
d6fd2b1a-90ba-4fe5-8fcb-d6535e1377e3
McGowan, Teresa
4524e894-04de-4822-8508-f4b966e12ae2

Ni Bhrolchain, Maire and Beaujouan, Eva , McGowan, Teresa (ed.) (2015) How real are reproductive goals? Uncertainty and the construction of fertility preferences (ESRC Centre for Population Change Working Papers, 73) Southampton, GB. ESRC Centre for Population Change 36pp.

Record type: Monograph (Working Paper)

Abstract

The underlying reality of fertility intentions, expectations and preferences tends to be taken for granted. This is a natural consequence of the assumption, implicit or explicit in most demographic research, that fertility behaviour is governed by rational choice. We question the reality of fertility intentions, expectations, and preferences, and propose instead that they are by and large constructed. Drawing on behavioural economics, psychology, and political science, we develop an outline theory of fertility intentions and preferences that contrasts with the classical rational choice model assumed in most work in this area.

We show that there is a relatively high frequency of uncertain responses to questions on fertility intentions and expectations and argue that the uncertainty expressed is genuine. It was largely in response to this finding that our theoretical approach was developed. The presence of uncertain answers to preference and intentions questions is acknowledged in most demographic surveys but their frequency and theoretical and empirical significance has been largely neglected.

Preferred family size may, we suggest, be a discovery rather than a goal. Demographic thinking about fertility decisions could be enriched by adopting the idea of constructed preferences from behavioural economics and psychology, together with ideas and debates in political science regarding survey response. The construction of fertility preferences and intentions can account for some hitherto unexplained anomalies in survey findings on fertility intentions and expectations. Preference construction theory provides a novel perspective on fertility intentions and preferences and on family building behaviour, and merits serious empirical investigation in this contex

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Published date: 21 December 2015
Organisations: Social Statistics & Demography, Centre for Population Change

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 385269
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/385269
PURE UUID: 73947f08-910c-49a4-9d31-8ad0ae4371ac

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Date deposited: 23 Dec 2015 12:15
Last modified: 17 Jul 2017 19:58

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