Journal of Population Research

, Volume 36, Issue 1, pp 1–12 | Cite as

Research note: What kind of individual-level effects of childbearing would we ideally be interested in learning about? The important distinction between expected, unexpected, varying and general effects

  • Øystein KravdalEmail author
Review Article


Some consequences of childbearing for the parents and children are partly expected by the parents, while others to a larger extent are unexpected. Also, some are rather general while others vary greatly between individuals. In principle, it would be valuable for individual fertility decision-makers to learn about consequences of childbearing that they are currently not aware of. This can be achieved by disseminating existing expert knowledge about effects that are likely to be poorly known to the public, and by doing further research on effects of childbearing. Knowledge about effects that are rather general, such as those involving physiological mechanisms, would be particularly valuable. Other effects, which may be described as social–behavioural, are to a larger extent expected and varying, and are therefore both harder to estimate and less important for individual decision-makers to learn about. For politicians and planners, knowledge about all types of consequences may be helpful, and perhaps especially those that are rather general.


Consequences Fertility Expected Unexpected Policy Decision-making 



Comments from two reviewers are greatly appreciated. An earlier version of the paper was presented as a Süssmilch Lecture at the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research.


Funding was provided by Norwegian Research Council (Centre of Excellence funding scheme, project number 262700).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The author declares that there is no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EconomicsUniversity of OsloOsloNorway
  2. 2.Centre for Fertility and HealthNorwegian Institute of Public HealthOsloNorway

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