Religiosity and Fertility Differences in the Contemporary U.S.: Evidence from the 2002 NSFG

Sarah R. Hayford, Duke University
S. Philip Morgan, Duke University

Using data from the 2002 National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG), we show that women who report that religion is “very important” in their everyday life have both higher fertility and higher intended fertility than those saying religion is “somewhat important” or “not at all important.” Further, net of intended fertility, factors such as unwanted fertility, age at childbearing, or degree of fertility postponement seem not to contribute to religiosity differentials in fertility. This answer prompts more fundamental questions: why do the more religious want more children? Using items available in the 2002 NSFG, we show that more religious women have more traditional gender and family attitudes and that these attitudinal differences account for a substantial part of the initial fertility differential. We speculate regarding other contributing causes.

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Presented in Session 61: Religion and Family Formation in the United States