The Evolution of Male and Female Family Size Preferences within Relationships

Sara Yeatman, University of Colorado at Denver
Steven Culpepper, University of Colorado at Denver
Christie Sennott, University of Colorado at Boulder

Researchers have examined the relative influence of husbands’ and wives’ fertility preferences on fertility behavior in a variety of contexts. Such studies, however, largely treat fertility preferences, and family size preferences in particular, as fixed individual traits despite existing theoretical and empirical arguments that suggest preferences are moving targets that may be jointly developed within relationships. Indeed, very little is known about how partners influence each other’s preferences over the course of a relationship. This paper uses six waves of closely-spaced couple-level data from southern Malawi and multilevel longitudinal models to examine how family size preferences change over time within couples before and after marriage. Throughout, we pay particular attention to gender and the relative influence of male and female partners’ preferences on one another.

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Presented in Session 99: Fertility Intentions and Behaviors over the Life Course