Why Do Americans Want Children?

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Date
1996-08
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Publisher
Hopkins Population Center
Abstract
Data from the 1987-88 US National Survey of Families and Households are used to test four hypotheses about fertility intentions. Fertility intentions are examined as a function of the importance of the social resource value of children, economic costs, women's career impact, and childlessness. The study sample includes 4691 non-Hispanic White or Black women who are aged 16-39 years. The authors analyze subgroups stratified by race, gender, union, and parity. Findings indicate that fertility intentions declined with increased parity. Parity differences varied by race and union status. Multivariate logistic regression results confirm the impact of parity on fertility intentions. The social resource variable was positively related to fertility intentions for men and for women. The odds ratio was larger among persons with a high degree of agreement with attitudes valuing children as a resource. The 'economic cost of children' variable was only weakly and insignificantly related to fertility intentions. The 'career impact' variable was significant and positive for parity 0 White women. Both married and unmarried women with careers were less inclined to desire a child. The 'career impact' variable was significant but weak for married White women at parity 1 and 2 plus. The 'career impact' variable was only significant for White men at parity 1, and these men were less likely to desire another child. Childless men and women, married and unmarried, who supported childlessness, were less likely to desire a child. Married women at parity 1 and married men at parity 2 plus, who supported parenthood over childlessness, had lower fertility intentions. The analysis of Black men and women was hampered by small sample sizes, but race was not directly associated with fertility intentions at any parity. The most important predictor was actual fertility. A "primary motivator" of childbearing among low fertility populations is the social resource value of children.
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Keywords
Family Life Surveys, Logistic Model, Fertility Determinants, Value Orientation, Child, Income, Labor Force, Attitudes, Voluntary Childlessness, Psychosocial Factors
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