What Are Fertility Intentions? Using Sociology of the Future in Fertility Research

Sarah Garver , University of Chicago
Jaclyn Wong, University of South Carolina

Sociologists of the future stress that imaginings or projections of both short- and long-term futures motivate present agentic behaviors and shape eventual outcomes. As such, fertility intentions are a relevant case study as they predict future fertility and related outcomes. Less work has sought to explicitly understand how behavior unfolds when dimensions of an imagined future diverge (e.g. a woman desires to avoid pregnancy while expecting pregnancy to occur). Here we draw on conceptual tools from the sociology of the future to interrogate the utility of measuring different dimensions of imagined futures -- namely ideals versus expectations -- since these are differently anchored to past experience and future imaginaries. Here we argue these two dimensions, although related, when modeled simultaneously provide a different lens through which to understand (and classify) (un)intended pregnancy. More directly, this work has implications for what is being captured by our various measures of fertility intention.

See extended abstract

 Presented in Session 228. Fertility Intentions: Causes and Consequences