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Variations in Reports of Fertility Preferences: Evidence from an Experimental Survey

a PSC Small Fund Research Project

Investigator:   Emily Ann Marshall

Fertility preferences are a central concern of demographic research, with consequences for individual and family well-being, as well as serious implications for macro-level processes of population growth and decline. Empirical studies of fertility preferences have demonstrated that they are often stable and strong predictors of fertility outcomes at the population level. However, many studies have also highlighted the fact that the relationship between fertility behavior and preferences is far from straightforward at the individual level. One possible explanation for this is the influence of situational factors on individuals’ evaluations of their own preferences. The aim of this study is to explore how variation in reports of fertility preferences can result from different social context primes. We ask to what extent subjects change their reports of fertility preferences (the number of children they would like to have), when they are prompted to think of different social contexts before reporting their preferences. An experimental survey will be used in a web survey of university undergraduates in the United States and Turkey in order to investigate priming effects on reports of fertility preferences, particularly the effects of primes related to social contexts or roles. The crossnational comparison will explore how the relative importance of specific situational primes varies by cultural context. In addition to the goal of improving the measurement of fertility preferences, this research contributes to a larger research agenda to test theories of culture and cognition as a means to better understand basic demographic behaviors.

Funding Period: 03/01/2013 to 06/30/2014

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