Desired and Excess Fertility in Europe and the United States: Indirect Estimates from World Fertility Survey Data

Calhoun, C.A. (1989). Desired and Excess Fertility in Europe and the United States: Indirect Estimates from World Fertility Survey Data. IIASA Working Paper. IIASA, Laxenburg, Austria: WP-89-041

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How many children couples want, and how many unwanted births occur, is essential information for the guiding of family planning program in Leas Developed Countries, and for measures to encourage childbearing in More Developed Countries. The World Fertility Survey (WFS) was organized for ascertaining such facts; it is said to be the most ambitious piece of social research ever undertaken, with field work by statistical agencies in nearly 60 countries, coordinated by a central star of unchallenged credentials in statistics and demography. The major effort was in the LDCs, but 16 European countries and the United States were also included, and it is from these latter that have come the data on which the present working paper is based.

Apparently the interpretation of the results requires even more technical skill than the original surveys did. The difficulty to be overcome is that births unwanted at the time they occurred come to be very much wanted afterwards. Hence the retrospective statements of women on how many of the children born to them were unwanted would not be of much value, even if it were feasible to request such statements. It is this gap in information that the author has filled, using from the WFS only the statements on how many children were already born, and how many further children were expected.

As an example of the estimates here published, the United States showed 28.4 per cent of women with two children, and of these 4.8 per cent wanted none, and 2.7 per cent wanted one child. The 28.4 per cent is a directly observed number; the 4.8 and the 2.7 per cent are inferred by the indirect technique here expounded.

It turns out that the women not in the labor force have higher proportions of unwanted births than those in the labor force; even at given levels of education the former may be thought of as more traditional. Working women, moreover, have a stronger incentive to be careful than housewives. The use of this technique on data available in the late 1970s would have forecast the fall in the late 19808, if it were supposed that sophistication in birth control is spreading through the population. On the same supposition the possibility of further falls in fertility is one of the conclusions from the figures given here, more for some countries than for others.

Item Type: Monograph (IIASA Working Paper)
Research Programs: World Population (POP)
Depositing User: IIASA Import
Date Deposited: 15 Jan 2016 01:59
Last Modified: 27 Aug 2021 17:13

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