Measuring Fertility Intentions During Times of Crisis: An Example Using Survey Data Amid the Covid-19 Pandemic

Letícia J. Marteleto*, Molly Dondero, Sneha Kumar, David C. Mallinson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Fertility intentions—intentions regarding whether and when to have children—predict reproductive health outcomes. Measuring fertility intentions is difficult, particularly during macrostructural shocks, for at least two reasons: (1) fertility intentions may be especially volatile during periods of uncertainty and (2) macrostructural shocks may constrain data collection. We propose a set of indicators that capture how a macrostructural shock directly alters fertility intentions, with a particular focus on the Coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic. We advance the conceptualization and construct of fertility intentions measures in three ways. First, we demonstrate the value of direct questions about whether women attributed changes in fertility intentions to the pandemic. Second, we highlight the importance of a typology that delineates fertility postponement, advancement, foregoing, and indecision. Third, we demonstrate the importance of incorporating a granular time window within a two-year period to capture short-term changes to fertility intentions. We exemplify the value of our proposed measures using survey data from a probabilistic sample of women aged 18–34 in Pernambuco, Brazil. We discuss the self-reported change in intentions due to Covid in wave 1 as well as panel change across waves. We further ground our contributions by uncovering important variations by social origin and parity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)161-180
Number of pages20
JournalStudies in Family Planning
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Demography
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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