Comparing Prospective and Retrospective Measures of Unwanted Fertility

S. Philip Morgan, Duke University
Heather M. Rackin, Duke University

We use the 1979 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth to compare levels and correlates of prospective and retrospective measurements of unwanted fertility. Specifically, we contrast traditional retrospective measures with a new strategy that uses prospective intention measures that were asked 17 times over a three decade period. For instance, if a respondent reports in two consecutive surveys that she intends no more children, then we code a birth prior to the next survey as “prospectively unwanted”. Our preliminary results show that this prospective measure of unwanted fertility identifies 14.7% of all births to this cohort as unwanted. Traditional retrospective reports identify only 9.7% of births as unwanted. Planned analyses will compare the correlates of unwanted births using these two approaches as well as correlates of factors that predict when a birth will be differentially coded using these two approaches.

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Presented in Session 69: Methodological and Substantive Issues in Studies of Unwanted Fertility