An Analysis of Intended Parity and Ideal Family Size in the United States, 1970-2002

Kellie J. Hagewen, Duke University
S. Philip Morgan, Duke University

Disagreement exists regarding whether intended parity in the United States is stable at approximately 2, or dropping below this mark. A framework designed to explain the historic pattern in fertility variation developed by Bongaarts and elaborated by Morgan assumes intended parity is an important by stable phenomena. Using repeated cross-sectional data from the GSS and CPS, we examine levels of intended parity and ideal family size in the U.S. over a 30-year period. We argue that long-standing norms dictate the intended parity of young women in the United States, by both discouraging childlessness and one-child families, and regarding large families as incompatible with good parenting. Hence, the fertility intentions of young women have remained roughly the same over highly variable periods. The implications of these trends and how they relate to overall fertility are discussed.

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Presented in Session 131: Fertility Preferences