NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
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Maximilian W. Mueller

Department of Economics
University of California, Berkeley
530 Evans Hall #3880
Berkeley, CA 94720-3880

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Institutional Affiliation: University of California at Berkeley

NBER Working Papers and Publications

May 2019The Illusion of Stable Preferences over Major Life Decisions
with Joan Hamory Hicks, Jennifer Johnson-Hanks, Edward Miguel: w25844
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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