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Fertility preferences: what measuring second choices teaches us

Anne Gauthier, Christoph Bühler, Joshua Goldstein and Saskia Hin

Vienna Yearbook of Population Research, 2011, vol. 9, issue 1, 131-156

Abstract: This article aims to strengthen the research methodology for studies of fertility preferences. Knowledge of personal fertility ideals is important both for demographers and policy makers, but the measurement techniques currently employed are not very refined. We suggest that the information provided by asking people about their personal ideal number of offspring can be improved in quality when asking them to also consider alternative preferences. The results of a survey conducted in the Netherlands demonstrate how measuring second (and, if desired, further) choices improves our ability to differentiate between different population subgroups. Moreover, it brings to light individuals' openness to their `second best ideals'. Including questions on alternative ideals in surveys thus enhances the qualitative potential of studies on fertility ideals and adds a new dimension to research on the how and why of fertility gaps between desired and achieved fertility.

Date: 2011
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