Mapping Social Influence on Fertility: A Mix-Method Approach to Data Collection and Analysis

Laura Bernardi, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research
Holger Von der Lippe, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research
Sylvia Keim, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research

Mix-method research designs are still a rarely met challenge in demographic research. This paper draws on insights from a comparative study on the role of informal social networks on fertility behavior in East and West Germany to illustrate the advantages of employing a multi-method research strategy in this field. Theoretical propositions on the importance of social effects due to informal interaction for fertility change, are not yet supported by systematic empirical evidence. Major problems are the correct identification of the relevant informal relationships and the comparability of social networks across population subgroups. We use a combination of in-depth interviewing, network charts and network grids to elicit the map of individual personal relationships and their influence on respondents’ fertility. We collect parallel information from respondents themselves and from members of their social network. We discuss the advantages and disadvantages of this method for the validity and the comparability of the data.

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Presented in Session 111: Innovative Techniques in Data Collection and Analysis II