Reports of Fertility Preferences: Assessing the Effects of Priming with Social Contexts

Emily Marshall, University of Michigan
Hana Shepherd, Rutgers University

This study investigates how social contexts influence reports of fertility preferences. We use experimental design in a web survey to examine how priming respondents to think of different social contexts affects their subsequent reports of fertility preferences. Comparing nine different treatments, each designed to prime a social context related to fertility preferences (e.g., religion, career aspirations), we find significant effects of priming on some measures of fertility preferences, but not others. Notably, most treatments don’t significantly affect reports of desired number of children. Effects of priming vary by gender: significant effects occur to a greater extent among female respondents, compared to males. Additional analyses suggest that some priming effects may interact with aspects of social identity, such as religious and political views. This research contributes both to improved measurement of fertility preferences, and to the use of theories of culture and cognition to better understand social influences on demographic behaviors.

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Presented in Poster Session 2: Fertility Intentions and Behavior