Population Research and Policy Review

, Volume 36, Issue 6, pp 903–928 | Cite as

Trajectories of Unintended Fertility

  • Sowmya Rajan
  • S. Philip Morgan
  • Kathleen Mullan Harris
  • David Guilkey
  • Sarah R. Hayford
  • Karen Benjamin Guzzo


Having an unintended birth is strongly associated with the likelihood of having later unintended births. We use detailed longitudinal data from the Add Health Study (N = 8300) to investigate whether a host of measured sociodemographic, personality, and psychosocial characteristics select women into this “trajectory” of unintended childbearing. While some measured characteristics and aspects of the unfolding life course are related to unintended childbearing, explicitly modeling these effects does not greatly attenuate the association of an unintended birth with a subsequent one. Next, we statistically control for unmeasured time-invariant covariates that affect all birth intervals, and again find that the association of an unintended birth with subsequent ones remains strong. This persistent, strong association may be the direct result of experiencing an earlier unintended birth. We propose several mechanisms that might explain this strong association.


Unintended fertility Selection Life course State dependence 



We are grateful to the Carolina Population Center (R24 HD050924) for general support. This research uses data from Add Health, a program project directed by Kathleen Mullan Harris and designed by J. Richard Udry, Peter S. Bearman, and Kathleen Mullan Harris at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and funded by Grant P01-HD31921 from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, with cooperative funding from 23 other federal agencies and foundations.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sowmya Rajan
    • 1
  • S. Philip Morgan
    • 2
  • Kathleen Mullan Harris
    • 3
  • David Guilkey
    • 4
  • Sarah R. Hayford
    • 5
  • Karen Benjamin Guzzo
    • 6
  1. 1.Carolina Population CenterUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel HillChapel HillUSA
  2. 2.Department of Sociology, Carolina Population CenterUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel HillChapel HillUSA
  3. 3.Department of Sociology, Carolina Population CenterUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel HillChapel HillUSA
  4. 4.Department of Economics, Carolina Population CenterUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel HillChapel HillUSA
  5. 5.Department of SociologyThe Ohio State UniversityColumbusUSA
  6. 6.Department of SociologyBowling Green State UniversityBowling GreenUSA

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