Princeton Fertility Survey

Basic Information

  • Author: Charles F. Westoff
  • Conducted by: National Analysts, Inc., Philadelphia.
  • Funded by: The Carnegie Corporation, the Milbank Memorial Fund, and the Population Council.
  • Data Prepared by: Office of Population Research, Princeton University
  • Universe: Currently married native-born white couples, who had never been separated, had recently had a second child, and never experienced a miscarriage or child death.
  • Date of Survey: Longitudinal; Surveys in 1957, 1963, and a final interview in 1963 - 1967.
  • Coverage: SMA's of New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Detroit, San Francisco-Oakland, and Pittsburgh.
  • Sample Size:
    • First Round: 1165
    • Second Round: 905
    • Third Round: 814
  • Record Weights: None.
  • Access: Public

Additional Information


A simple random sample was drawn in each SMA, based on Vital Records, to identify eligible women who had had a second birth four to six months before the projected interview date. After excluding women who had moved out of the SMA, or died, by the time of interview, 1314 eligible couples were identified for the first round, of whom 1165 completed interviews. The response rate was thus 88.7%. A self-administered questionnaire left for the husband and wife to mail back after the interview yielded a response rate of over 80%.

Any couple whose marriage was no longer intact, or who had had a sterilizing operation, or who had left the area or died, was excluded from the eligible pool for the second interview. 1129 of the original couples were still eligible for the second interview; of these, 905 completed second interviews (response rate 80.2%). In the third round, women were divided into 5 groups based on age, years of marriage and future childbearing expectations, with the intention of interviewing them as close as possible to the end of their reproductive lives. The final interviews took place over a five-year period based in these criteria. The intention was that in the final interview, the woman should be at least 36.5 years old, have been married at least 11 years and have had all the children the couple wanted. The final group included all women who had not completed these requirements. Of the 870 couples eligible for the final round, 814 completed interviews (response rate 93.6%).

Field Work

The interviews were conducted by experienced women interviewers on the staff of National Analysts, Inc. Three days of additional training were provided the interviewers. The average length of the first interview was one and one half hours. In addition, self-administered questionnaires were left for the husband and the wife to return by mail. The followup interviews were shorter than the first and additional training was provided before each round.

Data Collected

Questions were asked about the couple's attitudes toward family planning, personal goals, work, leisure, religion, world problems. Detailed questions were asked about the planning status, timing, and wantedness of each birth. Contraceptive use, intentions for future childbearing, periods of separation, and opinions on abortion are also recorded.

Other References

Three books were published, each related to one of the three interview rounds:

  1. Family Growth in Metropolitan America, by C.F. Westoff, R.G. Potter, P.C. Sagi, and E.G. Mishler.
  2. The Third Child, by C.F. Westoff, R.G. Potter, and P.C. Sagi.
  3. The Later Years of Childbearing, by L.L. Bumpass and C.F. Westoff.

All three books were published by the Princeton University Press.

Structure of the data

The data are in a rectangular file, with one record for each respondent. All three interviews are recorded on a single record.

You can click here for a file list.