Continuity and Change in Young Women's Family Size Preferences, 1955-1995

Anita H. Yuan, University of California, Los Angeles
Judith A. Seltzer, University of California, Los Angeles

U.S. family life has changed dramatically in recent decades, including delayed marriage, smaller families, and a rise in single parenthood. Attitudes have also become more accepting of these family changes, although young adults still want to marry and have children. We examine trends in the number of children young women say they would ideally like to have for the period 1955-1995. We investigate both levels and variation in personal family size ideals and ask if change in women’s demographic characteristics explain these trends. We use data from ten national surveys. Because early fertility surveys sampled only married women, we conduct two analyzes. The first examines trends in married women’s personal ideal family size. The second examines trends for all women regardless of marital status. The latter is restricted to data since 1982, but it is important because changes in marriage formation and dissolution are likely to affect fertility preferences.

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Presented in Session 130: Fertility Preferences