Measuring Individual Uncertainty and Fertility Preferences among Vulnerable Populations in Rural Malawi

Sarah Garver, Ohio State University
Alison Norris, Ohio State University

In the area of population studies and health, scholars are currently debating the role of uncertainty in determining reproductive intentions and behaviors. Some scholars argue that contexts of uncertainty lead to postponement of childbirth and actions to limit fertility (Johnson Hanks 2005, 2006; Timaus and Moultrie 2008; Agadjanian 2005). Other scholars argue that high fertility exists because children are a means of security (Cain 1981; Nugent 1985). Furthermore, scholars lack a reliable protocol for measuring individual uncertainty in structured inquiry (e.g. surveys). This study draws on conceptualizations in the management literature as well as prior qualitative fieldwork with the study population to develop a survey measure of individual uncertainty in rural Malawi. Data collection was part of a representative longitudinal cohort study with women of reproductive age (15-40) and their partners. The study offers an interdisciplinary measure of uncertainty, and addresses empirical gaps in the study of fertility preferences.

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Presented in Session 61: Changing Fertility Intentions