Two independent, concurrent demographic surveys in rural India, one male, the other female, were used to examine misreporting of ever-born children among 223 couples common to both samples. Husband-wife disagreements were checked in detail and characteristics of the errors and of the misreporters themselves were analysed. ‘Forgetting’ of dead children was the main cause of mistaken reporting. Another type of error was found to be sex-related: men, but not women, confused fetal deaths with live births. Of the various correlates of male misreporting tested, only age appeared to be a determining factor. On the other hand, traditional attitudes and overall response reliability were more important than age in explaining female errors. No significant relationships between faulty reporting and socio-economic status or family size were established. Various suggestions are made for minimizing fertility misreporting in surveys of rural, illiterate populations.
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