Cover: How Well Do Desired Fertility Measures for Wives and Husbands Predict Subsequent Fertility

How Well Do Desired Fertility Measures for Wives and Husbands Predict Subsequent Fertility

Published 1997

by Christine E. Peterson, Courtland Reichmann

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Data on fertility preferences are often used to help predict future fertility. This paper examines responses to two fertility preference questions — regarding whether more children are wanted and desired total family size — that were asked of women and their husbands as part of the First Malaysian Family Life Survey (MFLS-1) fielded in 1976-77 and then see how well these preferences predict the women's subsequent fertility, as reported in the Second Malaysian Family Life Survey (MFLS-2), fielded 12 years later, in 1988-89. The authors examine the consistency between the woman's and her husband's responses, and the relationship of those responses (and the consistency between them) to fertility outcomes that occurred by 1988. The detailed life histories collected in MFLS-1 and MFLS-2 show how events during the 12-year period between the surveys, such as change in marital status, the death of a child, and migration to a new area, affect the relationship between fertility preferences and subsequent fertility outcomes. It was found that preferences in 1977, even when controlling for such factors, do play a role in whether a birth occurred between 1977 and 1988. Women (and men) who said that they wanted more children than they had in 1977 were much more likely to have a birth than those who said they did not want more. If both spouses said they did not want more children, the couple was very unlikely to have another birth; if there was disagreement between spouses, the husband's preferences appeared to play a stronger role in likelihood of a subsequent birth. Information on whether more children were wanted appeared to be more useful than information on desired family size.

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