Fertility and Ideology: A Study of the Relation between Selective Memory and Childbearing among American Whites

Tim Futing Liao, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Libin Zhang, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

In this paper, we venture to go beyond the usual literature on fertility and ideology, and study ideology as reflected in people’s memory of social and historical events. By doing so, we bring together the literature on collective memory and that on fertility differentials. We analyze the 1993 General Social Survey to understand the relation between childbearing behavior and selective memory of certain historical and social events representing political and religious ideology. Our results demonstrate that certain generation-based selective memory items, as reflected in the interaction between memory scores and age cohorts, are clearly related to the respondents’ levels of fertility. Indeed, ideology is important in explaining fertility, but the effect cannot be captured by the conventionally conceived instrument such as the liberal-conservative scale commonly used in instruments including the General Social Survey. Rather, our analysis shows that ideology resident in selective memory matters as a fertility differential, in particular for the older cohorts.

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Presented in Session 30: Religion, Changing Ideologies and Fertility