My dissertation explores tensions between the empirical reality that Latino/a birth rates have been slowing in the United States since the Great Recession in 2007 and American discourse that presumes Latinos/as are a fairly homogenous group with “excessively” high fertility rates. This study is an intervention in the literature on Latino/a reproduction that assumes large family size as well as the literature on voluntarily childless couples, who are generally assumed to be Anglo in the American context. I explore these tensions with the case study of middle-class heterosexual Latino/a couples in Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas. I compare voluntarily childless Latinos/as with parents to learn about reproductive negotiations through the lens of gender and power. In my research, I wanted to learn: What particular configurations do participants in my study want for their families, and why? What are their views on gender, marriage, and parenting? Why do they want small families, and how do their parents and grandparents feel about this? These are central questions that I explore throughout this dissertation.
I examine these questions through qualitative analysis of narratives of marital histories and reproductive negotiation. I spent a year conducting ethnographic fieldwork with middle-class Latinos/as and worked with thirty-five individuals whose narratives represent twenty-one heterosexual couples to gather these narratives. (Not all male partners agreed to participate.) I use an intersectional framework (focusing on gender, race/ethnicity, and class) to understand power structures that shape participants’ views of and decisions around family formation. Through their narratives, I identify ways that participants move within, challenge, and reify these power structures both individually and within couples.
I find that issues of parenting and family formation are important to both men and women, but still primarily fall on the shoulders of women. Moreover, many Latinas experience role conflict between middle-class expectations and familial expectations in ways that men do not. For these reasons, women in the study generally had final say on reproductive decisions, while their husbands maintained flexible ideas about family formation. Middle-class Latinas in my project employ one of three strategies to deal with the role conflict they experience: forgoing motherhood, delaying motherhood or career, or leaning on family support (often based on familismo) to mitigate role conflict.
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Lott, Jessica, "Gendered Reproductive Negotiation and Family Formation: Latino/a Parents and Voluntarily Childless Couples in Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas" (2018). Anthropology Theses and Dissertations. 3.
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