Exploring the Gap between Achieved and Desired Fertility in the United States

Nadia Diamond-Smith, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
Nan M. Astone, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

Much of the literature on pregnancy intention has focused on unintended pregnancy and less attention has been given to people who underachieve their fertility goals, despite achieved fertility being lower than fertility desires in much of the developed world. Using qualitative interviews with 147 parents in California, we explore three hypotheses for why this gap exists between achieve and desired fertility. Although some parents achieved their desired family size or did not have a “plan”, the majority of respondents did not achieve their fertility goals. Delays in union formation, union instability, and infertility were the most common themes brought up by respondents as to why they underachieved their fertility intentions. The impact of experiences childbearing, work family conflict, and financial burden were less important factors. These findings suggest that delays and uncertainty about unions and fertility are driving factors in lower than desired fertility in the US.

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