Women’s Childbearing Intentions and the Future of U.S. Fertility Rates

Caroline Hartnett , University of South Carolina

Period TFR in the U.S. has declined steadily since the Great Recession, to 1.76 children in 2017. This pattern could mean that current cohorts will end up with fewer children than previous cohorts, or it could result from simple postponement. We use data on current parity and future intended births from the 2006-2017 NSFG to evaluate a “declining expectations” hypothesis versus a “postponement” hypothesis. We find that total expected parity has declined since 2006 – for women as a whole and several subgroups (adolescent, Latina, low-SES, and non-religious women). These changes seem to be concentrated at the low end of the parity distribution: there was an increase in the expectation of having no children (and no decline in the expectation of 4+ children). However, average expected parity remains quite high, and based on prior cohorts, we anticipate that women in their twenties will end up with completed fertility near replacement.

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 Presented in Session 113. Low Fertility and Childlessness