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Popul Trends. 2010 Autumn;(141):10-32. doi: 10.1057/pt.2010.19.

Stability and change in fertility intentions in Britain, 1991-2007.

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University of Southampton, UK.


The very low fertility experienced in several European countries in recent decades in the presence of higher intended family sizes has renewed interest in fertility intentions data. While the overall level of childbearing in Britain over the past few decades has remained relatively stable and high in comparison with many other European countries, we have seen sizeable increases in the age at which childbearing starts. This study uses data from the 1991 to 2007 General Household Surveys to examine trends in family intentions data in an attempt to arrive at a better understanding of these recent fertility developments. First, time trends in intended family size are compared with trends in observed fertility. Next, aggregate changes in intentions regarding the level and timing of fertility across the life course for cohorts are investigated together with the extent to which these aggregate intentions are matched by the subsequent childbearing of cohorts. Finally, both change across the life course and uncertainty in family intentions are examined. We conclude by discussing what these findings might tell us about contemporary reproductive decision making.

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