Volume 30 - Article 43 | Pages 1245–1276

White-Hispanic differences in meeting lifetime fertility intentions in the U.S.

By Caroline Hartnett

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Date received:27 Jun 2012
Date published:23 Apr 2014
Word count:5922
Keywords:fertility, fertility intentions, Hispanic, United States of America


Background: Hispanics in the U.S. have higher fertility than non-Hispanic Whites but it is not clear why this difference exists nor whether fertility levels reflect the preferences of individuals in these groups. Understanding racial-ethnic differences in fertility is important for understanding American fertility more broadly since the majority of births in the U.S. are to non-White women.

Objective: This paper examines the correspondence between fertility intentions and outcomes for Hispanic and White women and men in the U.S.

Methods: Panel data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth are used to describe intended family size (recorded at age 22), completed family size (recorded at age 42 and above), and the likelihood that these numbers match, for Hispanic and White women and men. Regression analyses are used to understand why the correspondence between intentions and outcomes varies across groups.

Results: Although Hispanics come closer to achieving parity intentions in the aggregate (Hispanic women fall short by a quarter of a birth, compared to more than two-fifths for Whites), at the individual level they are not more likely to meet their intentions (33% of Hispanic women achieve their desired parity, compared with 38% of Whites). Hispanics have higher fertility than Whites both because they intend more children at the start of their reproductive lives and because they are more likely to exceed these intentions.

Conclusions: Higher fertility among Hispanics compared with Whites in the U.S. is due to a combination of wanted and unwanted fertility. In addition, despite relatively high completed fertility, a large proportion of Hispanic women and men fall short of early life intentions.

Author's Affiliation

Caroline Hartnett - University of South Carolina, United States of America [Email]

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