Week 9 - Fertility Preferences and Intentions, Contraception, Nonmarital Childbearing


Musick (2002)

1. How does Musick’s article advance the literature regarding nonmarital childbearing? What do we gain by distinguishing between planned and unplanned childbearing? Theoretically? In the way of policy implications?

2. Musick discussed the validity of measuring planning status by using the retrospective report of pregnancy intendedness. (p920). She used other studies’ results to justify the use of retrospective reports. Do you find her argument strong? Or, are there any strategies to deal with the possible underreporting of unplanned pregnancy?

3. Musick’s analyses revealed that independent variables such as education and cohabitation had differential effects by race and ethnicity. How do these patterns shed light on potential variation in the meaning of childbearing across racial and ethnic groups? What are Musick’s key findings in this regard?

4. Musick found that childhood family structure (spending time in a single-parent family) increased the likelihood of childbearing outside of marriage for Whites, but only had a modest effect among Black and no effect among Hispanics, which seems inconsistent with the study results from the Fragile Families. How can we understand the discrepancies of different studies?

5. What questions does Musick’s research leave open? What types of analyses could we devise to explore these questions?


Schoen et al. (1999)

1. In what ways does Schoen et al.’s study move ahead from prior research? How do their findings contradict those from previous studies?

2. Schoen et al. state that it is important to distinguish the “additional information effect” and “mediation effect” of fertility intention. Why? What is the implication for this distinction?

3. Does “fertility intention” have the same meaning as “fertility desire”?

4. Schoen et al. summarized that fertility intention could be mediated by some variables (e.g. spouse’s intention, lifecycle factors and reproduction related changes), of which the individual has various degree of control. However, how can we understand the mediating factors that are out of an individual’s control? (for example, one-child policy.)

5. According to Schoen et al.’s regression results on married and unmarried persons, educational level is significant for unmarried persons, but loses its significance for married persons. How can we interpret this result?

6. Schoen et al. grouped cohabitors with unmarried persons in this analysis. What are the implications of doing so? How might the relationships among the variables examined here differ for cohabitors? Would we expect cohabitors to more closely resemble married persons or single persons?

7. Could the fertility intention of having a child be the same as that of having an additional child?

8. Schoen et al. argued that “Fertility intentions and expectations are not the avenue through which background and life-cycle variables influence fertility.” (p798) So, what are the possible avenues through which background and life-cycle variables influence fertility?

Pagnini & Rindfuss (1993)

1. What are the major trends in attitudes toward nonmarital fertility in the U.S. identified by the authors? How have the determinants of these attitudes changed over time?

2. How are cohort and period effects implicated in these trends? That is, do the data support a cohort replacement model of attitudinal change, or a shift among all cohorts toward greater acceptance, or both?

3. How do we make sense of education’s relationship to attitudes on the one hand, and actual fertility behavior on the other hand? For example, those with lower levels of education are the least accepting of nonmarital fertility, but at the same time have the highest levels of nonmarital fertility. How does this finding complicate possible causal models?

4. The authors used the attitude toward male homemakers to support the “nontraditional” behaviors surrounding the fertility behaviors.(p341). Why did they use this strategy? How do these results contribute to their argument?