Fertility decisions typically involve two persons. This raises the question of how individual desires or preferences for further children transform into joint action. Previous research has proposed different approaches to this question, emphasizing gender, joint utility, consensus, or bargaining power.
The project, conducted in cooperation with Gerrit Bauer (LMU Munich), aims at testing competing hypotheses found in the literature using couple data from the German Family Panel (pairfam). Analyses based on cross-sectional data from the first wave reveal symmetrical effects of both partners’ desires and expected utilities for children on proceptive behaviour, indicating that neither women nor men dominate fertility decisions per se. Instead, it is joint utility that matters. One partner will exercise a ‘veto’ only if the expected loss of utility from a further child is very high. When partners have opposed desires, bargaining power due to advantageous partner market conditions can play a pivotal role for imposing ones will on the partner. This research was supported by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). Results have been published in the European Sociological Review (2013).