NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
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The Illusion of Stable Preferences over Major Life Decisions

Maximilian W. Mueller, Joan Hamory Hicks, Jennifer Johnson-Hanks, Edward Miguel

NBER Working Paper No. 25844
Issued in May 2019
NBER Program(s):Development Economics, Health Economics

We examine the stability of preferences over time using panel data from Kenya on fertility intentions, realizations, and recall of intentions. We find that desired fertility is very unstable, but that most people perceive their desires to be stable. Under hypothetical scenarios, few expect their desired fertility to increase over time. Moreover, when asked to recall past intentions, most respondents report previously wanting exactly as many children as they desire today. Biased recall of preferences over a major life decision could have important implications for measuring excess fertility, the evolution of norms, and the perceived need for family planning programs.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w25844

 
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