"Alice in Wonderland": Lessons from a Study of Fertility Intentions among Well-Educated Couples in Belo Horizonte, Brazil

Paula Miranda-Ribeiro, Cedeplar, UFMG

In the Brazilian context of below replacement fertility, the objective of this paper is to challenge the traditional questions that result in the measure of fertility intentions. Data come from fieldwork carried out in 2013 in Belo Horizonte, Brazil: 62 short questionnaires and 62 in-depth interviews with 31 well-educated couples (wives 35-44 years-old) with 0-2 children. According to the traditional DHS questions about fertility preferences, many respondents have less children than they desire. However, the in-depth interviews reveal that several of them are not unhappy or dissatisfied with their actual number of children and do not wish to try to reach their desired fertility goal. In fact, they perceive the questions to be about social norms regarding ideal family size, rather than their individual preferences. Therefore, the measure of desired number of children is, according to one interviewee, “Alice in Wonderland,” somewhat different from what researchers originally had in mind.

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Presented in Session 164: Fertility Intentions: Measurement and Meaning