Intended and realized fertility: a life course approach

Maria Rita Testa, Wittgenstein Centre (IIASA, VID/ÖAW, WU)

Adults’ intentions to have children compete with intentions in different fields of life. Studying how individuals construct their preferences among competing life goals and build intended family trajectories is a challenging task and pertains to an under-investigated area of research. In this analysis, we examine for the first time the correspondence between fertility intentions and reproductive outcomes over the individuals’ life course using event history techniques and taking into account the ‘interdependencies of parallel careers’ (Dykstra and van Wissen 1999). The focus is on the following careers: childbearing, union, education, employment and migration. The theoretical background draws on the sociological theory of life course (Edler 1985). The life course approach emphasizes the salience of the historical and social context for the interaction of related careers (Mayer 2004). Hence, we propose a cross-country comparative longitudinal approach. The analysis uses the follow-up surveys of the GGS data for nine European countries including Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Romania, Austria, Estonia, Belgium, Lithuania and Poland. Piecewise regression models with interaction effects between reproductive intentions and intentions/events competing with childbearing are used. The outcome variable is the waiting time to the birth of a first or higher birth order child, as the models are stratified by parity, i.e., childless and parents. The key covariate is the intentions to have a child in the next three years. Preliminary results show that: 1) people form their intentions to have a(nother) child in a context of multiple life aims and childbearing competes with many other life goals; 2) all but resumption of study intentions support the realization of childbearing intentions; 3) Realization of intentions in parallel life domains support the realization of childbearing intentions but delay the birth of a child; 4) Life course approach is the appropriate framework to analyse the match between fertility intentions and outcomes.

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Presented in Poster Session 1