Will Women Catch Up to Their Fertility Expectations?

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In 2019, the Total Fertility Rate (TFR) dipped to 1.71 children per woman, an all-time low and far below the replacement rate of 2.10 children. Current levels of low fertility have important implications for the economy. To assess fertility trends, demographers often look at fertility expectations. Using this metric suggests no cause for concern. Women in their early 30s today, when first asked about their childbearing expectations in their early 20s, expected to have more than two children, similar to previous cohorts. But today’s 30-year-olds are much further from their 20-24 expectations than previous cohorts. And a number of trends have emerged in recent years that could suggest lower fertility. This project aims to shed light on whether women are likely to catch up to their fertility expectations and what factors influence their ability to do so. The analysis uses a regression framework to examine factors that drive fertility after age 30 for an older cohort of women surveyed in the NLSY79. The results are then used to predict the completed fertility for the younger cohort of women surveyed in the NLSY97, who are in their early to mid-thirties and still in their childbearing years.