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Riley, Ann P., Albert Hermalin, and Luis Rosero-Bixby. 1993. "A New Look at the Determinants of Nonnumeric Response to Desired Family Size: The Case of Costa Rica." Demography, 30(2): 159-74.
High levels of nonresponse or inappropriate response to items are a persistent concern in survey research because those who do not answer may not be representative of the study. This article focues on the factors associated with nonnumeric response. Using the example of questions on desired family size, the authors propose a conceptual framework for studying the level of nonnumeric response to such questions and illustrate how several of these factors come into play by studying variation over time and place. The authors apply their framework to actual data from the Costa Rica Contraceptive Prevalence Survey 1981.
Findings demonstrate the usefulness of the conceptual framework. The article successfully demonstrates that women who give nonnumeric responses often indicate clear preferences regarding past or future fertility in their attitude either about prior births or about current fertility regulation. Measures of cognitive skill and of reproductive control are found to be important determinants of nonnumeric response. Measures of reproductive history are less important; and community and program factors have no statistically significant effects. The authors conclude with recommendations for future research on fertility preferences.