Uncertainty in fertility intentions from a life course perspective: Which life course markers matter?
Keywords:uncertainty, panel data, multinomial fixed-effects regressions, Germany, fertility intentions
Objective: The aim of this study is to extend our knowledge about uncertainty in fertility intentions from a life course perspective. We want to find out if life course markers such as economic circumstances, relationship status, family size, and the so-called “biological clock” (getting older) influence uncertainty in fertility intentions. Uncertainty in fertility intentions is the state in which individuals are not sure whether they will have (more) children.
Background: Determining what drives uncertainty in fertility intentions may lead to a better understanding of fertility decision-making and its outcomes.
Method: We use German panel data (German Family Panel, pairfam) for three birth cohorts (1971-73, 1981-83, 1991-93), and employ multinomial fixed-effects logit models as well as bivariate analyses based on waves 1 to 11.
Results: Uncertainty in fertility intentions is volatile across an individual’s life course, serving as a transitional phase between certainly intending and not intending to have any (more) children. Approaching the end of the reproductive life span (getting older), separating from a partner, having two or more children, and, for men, subjective economic fears increase the odds of being uncertain.
Conclusion: By showing that uncertainty in fertility intentions is a volatile concept and that relevant life course markers shape this volatility, we provide new insights into the process of fertility decision-making.