Desires for children and their measurement in low fertility settings

Christoph Buehler, Leibniz Universit├Ąt Hannover
Joshua R. Goldstein, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research
Saskia Hin, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research

Traditional survey instruments on reproductive desires are focused on the number of children an individual ideally prefers. This approach, however, faces the problem of a low ability to predict future reproductive outcomes. Instruments that measure a hierarchy of preferred family sizes, like the instruments by Coombs (1974) and Terhune and Kaufmann (1973), are more promising, because they inform about latent desires for smaller or larger families. Surprisingly, these instruments are up to now neither applied to the low fertility contexts of Europe nor are the data they provide directly compared. The paper closes this gap by comparing these two instruments with the help of data from the Dutch LISS-Panel. Both instruments provide meaningful and similar results, also in the Dutch low-fertility context. The instrument by Coombs produces more reliable results than the instrument by Terhune and Kaufmann. However, both instruments are exposed to biasing forces, which are social desirability in the instrument by Coombs placement effects in the instrument by Terhune and Kaufmann.

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Presented in Session 6: Measurement issues and survey instruments