The fertility of immigrant women: family dynamics, migration, and timing of childbearing

Luis Alberto Del Rey Poveda, Universidad de Salamanca
Emilio A. Parrado, University of Pennsylvania

In contexts of below-replacement fertility the growth and age structure of national populations is directly affected by immigration. The demographic contribution of immigration however, stems from two sources. The first one, obviously, is immigration itself as the arrival of foreign populations affect receiving countries. The second one is the fertility of immigrant women since the level of immigrant women’s fertility might be different from the pattern prevalent among native residents. Still our understanding of the interaction between immigration and fertility is limited preventing a precise assessment of the population contribution of immigration and the extent to which it might counteract the problem of population aging. In this study, we provide a detailed analysis of the fertility patterns of immigrant women in Spain. Data come from the 2007 National Survey of Immigration that collected unique retrospective information on family dynamics, migration, and fertility histories. The analysis follows a life-course perspective to identify the main transitions connecting migration and fertility behavior. Our main objectives are to: describe the reproductive patterns of immigrant women before and after migration, assess the fertility-specific contribution of immigration to the Spanish population, and elaborate on the implications of the association between migration and fertility for standard demographic analyses. Preliminary results show that migration is a significantly disruptive event that alters the age pattern of childbearing. Specifically, the fertility of immigrant women is low before migration but increases in the years shortly after arrival. The extent of the disruption is connected with family dynamics and issues of spousal separation in association with migration. A main implication is that the failure to recognize the disruptive age pattern of childbearing among immigrant women overstate the level of immigrant fertility and exaggerates the fertility-specific contribution of immigration to population growth. The extent of the disruption though varies by national origin group.

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Presented in Session 62: Fertility of immigrants