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From Some to None? Fertility Expectation Dynamics of Permanently Childless Women

Alison Gemmill ()
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Alison Gemmill: Stony Brook University

Demography, 2019, vol. 56, issue 1, 129-149

Abstract: Abstract Permanent childlessness is increasingly acknowledged as an outcome of a dynamic, context-dependent process, but few studies have integrated a life course framework to investigate the complex pathways leading to childlessness. This study focuses on an understudied yet revealing dimension of why individuals remain childless: stated fertility expectations over the life course. Using data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 cohort, I use a combination of sequence analysis, data-driven clustering techniques, and multivariable regression models to identify and describe groups of permanently childless women who follow similar trajectories of stated fertility expectations. Results indicate that a little more than one-half (56 %) of eventually childless women fall into a cluster where childlessness is expected before age 30. Women in the remaining clusters (44 %) transition to expecting childlessness later in the life course but are differentiated by the types of trajectories that precede the emergence of a childless expectation. Results from multivariable regression show that several respondent characteristics, including race/ethnicity, education, and marital history, predict cluster membership. Taken together, these findings add to a growing body of literature that provides a more nuanced description of permanently childless women and motivates further research that integrates interdependencies between life course domains and fertility expectations and decision-making of those who remain childless.

Keywords: Childlessness; Fertility expectations; Life course; Sequence analysis (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2019
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Handle: RePEc:spr:demogr:v:56:y:2019:i:1:d:10.1007_s13524-018-0739-7