Journal of Family and Economic Issues

, Volume 39, Issue 1, pp 88–102 | Cite as

Uncertainty, Doubts, and Delays: Economic Circumstances and Childbearing Expectations Among Emerging Adults

  • Sarah R. Brauner-OttoEmail author
  • Claudia Geist


Fertility, or childbearing, expectations have been increasingly identified as an important area of research, at least in part because expectations may help us to understand family issues of concern across the globe such as unintended pregnancies, low fertility, and delayed childbearing. While much research has focused on the link between expectations and behavior, this study extends the literature by asking how those expectations were shaped initially. Specifically, we explore how one’s economic context is related to expectations. This paper further extends the literature by focusing on two dimensions of the parenthood expectations of young people (men and women aged 18–27). Using the 2005, 2007, 2009, and 2011 waves of the Panel Studies of Income Dynamics (PSID) Transition to Adulthood (TA) sample, we considered whether young people expected to have children in the future and, for those who did, when they expected to do so. The results support financial-strain theories of the relationship between (subjective and objective) economic circumstances and childbearing expectations. Women and men with lower earnings, less education, and more worries about their future job prospects are more uncertain whether they will have children. Of those who expect to have children, those with more education and more worries expect to do so later in life. Further analyses reveal that race and gender condition these relationships.


Childbearing Childbearing expectations Fertility intentions Economic well-being Work and family Economics Economic worries 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants performed by any of the authors. The PSID data is in the public domain.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyMcGill UniversityMontrealCanada
  2. 2.Department of SociologyUniversity of UtahSalt Lake CityUSA

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