Unmet Fertility Expectations, Education, and Fertility Postponement among U.S. Women

Steven P. Martin, University of Maryland
Kelly Musick, Cornell University

Using the National Longitudinal Surveys of Youth 1979 (NLSY79), we use mismatches between women’s fertility expectations expressed in 1982 and their completed fertility in 2006 as a tool to analyze educational differences in fertility during this time period. We find very little difference across educational groups in their fertility expectations in young adulthood. We find that about 23 percent of women exceeded their fertility expectations, while a much larger percentage (about 42 percent) of women fell short of their fertility expectations. Within every educational group but especially for college graduates, women were more likely to fall short of their educational expectations than to exceed those expectations. We conclude that unmet fertility expectations had the largest effects on fertility, and on educational differences in fertility, for the NLSY79 cohort.

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Presented in Session 145: Fertility Intentions, Reproductive Health and Fertility