Changes in Childbearing Desires and Expectations of Childless Men and Women

Edith E. Gray, Australian National University
Anna Reimondos, Australian National University
Ann Evans, Australian National University

This paper examines two concepts of future fertility, desires and expectations for children. Conceptually, these two types of questions are distinct. Desires are thought to measure what the individual wants, while expectations take into account factors that may prevent someone from achieving those desires. It is generally understood that situational factors affect individuals’ expectations but not their desires. We examine the relationship between childbearing desires and expectations among childless individuals to provide further insight into the fertility decision making process. Using a theoretically driven model incorporating cognitive dissonance, we analyse data from the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey (2001-2008). We test whether desires and expectations are influenced by the same factors, and whether this changes over time. In particular we investigate whether life course events affect desires as well as expectations, and whether there are times in the life course where desires and expectations converge.

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Presented in Session 173: Fertility Attitudes and Intentions in Low-Fertility Societies