Population Research and Policy Review

, Volume 38, Issue 4, pp 483–505 | Cite as

Births that are Later-than-Desired: Correlates and Consequences

  • Caroline Sten HartnettEmail author
  • Rachel Margolis
Original Research


Prior literature examining women’s evaluations of pregnancy timing has focused on pregnancies that are mistimed (i.e. earlier-than-desired) and unwanted (i.e. not wanted at any time), and has not addressed pregnancies that arrive later-than-desired. However, fertility postponement is widespread, so pregnancies that arrive later-than-desired may be common in the U.S. Using data from the 1995–2015 National Survey of Family Growth (N = 15,065), we investigate the prevalence and characteristics of later-than-desired pregnancies that end in birth. We find that nearly 10% of births are categorized as later-than-desired and these babies are more likely to be low birth weight, compared to on-time births (controlling for sociodemographic characteristics). Further, having a later-than-desired birth positively predicts that the next birth will be mistimed, rather than being on-time. These findings underscore the heterogeneity of pathways that can lead to mistimed births. Future research should explore the pairing of later-than-desired-births followed by mistimed births to identify mechanisms and evaluate how these births may differ from other mistimed births. We conclude that later-than-desired births warrant further study considering the elevated risk of low birth weight and the current progression of fertility postponement in the U.S. Further, we argue that future research on evaluations of birth timing should be expanded beyond mistimed and unwanted births to include later-than-desired births, due to their conceptual commonalities and their ties to poorer health indicators.


Fertility Fertility postponement Pregnancy intentions Mistimed pregnancies Infertility Subfecundity 



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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyUniversity of South CarolinaColumbiaUSA
  2. 2.Department of SociologyUniversity of Western OntarioLondonCanada

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