Childbearing Intentions of Migrants: Russians in Estonia Against the Background of Sending and Host Populations

Allan Puur, Estonian Institute for Population Studies, Tallinn University
Liili Abuladze, Estonian Institute for Population Studies, Tallinn University
Hanna Vseviov, Estonian Institute for Population Studies, Tallinn University

The aim of the study is to investigate childbearing intentions of Russians in Estonia relative to the sending and host populations as this might explain fertility differences between the population groups. Russian migrants and their descendants in Estonia show similarity to the origin country population in having lower propensity of second and third births than Estonians in Estonia, according to recent research. We are interested in the extent to which fertility intentions of Russian women converge with and exhibit difference from the patterns observed in the host country. Further, we are interested in which individual and contextual factors, especially attitudes with regard to gender roles facilitate or hinder the shift from origin to host country patterns. We use Estonian and Russian Generations and Gender Survey data (2004-2005). Women born in 1960-1983 are included in the analysis. We distinguish Russians living in Estonia, Estonians in Estonia and Russians in Russia based on self-reported ethnicity. Preliminary results indicate that the mean number of children born to Estonian women is the highest among the observed groups (1,51), followed by Russian women in Russia (1,29) and Russian women in Estonia (1,15). Correspondingly, Estonians have the highest mean number of born and intended children (1,85), followed by Russians in Russia (1,51) and Russians in Estonia (1,49). Descriptive results indicate that there are systematic differences in the gender role attitudes between the groups included in the study. Next we will employ logistic regression with intentions to have first, second and third child as dependent variables, controlling for demographic, socio-economic and normative characteristics.

Childbearing intentionsof migrants: Russians in Estonia against the background of sending and hostpopulations



Research on fertilityamong migrants and their descendants derives its evidence mainly fromretrospective surveys (Milewski 2011; Kulu & González-Ferrer 2014; Kulu et al. 2017). However, these findings mayreflect emerging changes in fertility patterns only to a limited extent,especially for younger generations that are in childbearing age. Therefore, itseems useful to complement the investigation of childbearing histories with thestudy of fertility intentions of migrants and their descendants.

The aim of the study is toinvestigate childbearing intentions of first- and second-generation Russians inEstonia relative to the sending and host populations. We are interested towhich extent are the intentions of having the first, second and third birth ofRussian women converging with and exhibiting difference from the host country.We will also explore which individual and contextual factors facilitate orhinder the shift from origin to host country patterns.

Previous analyses onchildbearing intentions in Estonia and Russia indicate preference for somewhatlarger family size in Estonia (Pailhe 2009; Puur & Klesment 2011). Based onthis, we expect that Russian migrants in Estonia exhibit an intermediateposition with regard to family intentions, or a greater similarity to thesending population. Guided by recent findings of fertility dynamics of Russianmigrants in Estonia (Puur et al. 2017), we anticipate greater differences inthe second and third birth intentions.

Further we are interestedwhether the observed differences in fertility intentions could be linked to andexplained by gender role attitude differences. Previously, traditional values (forEstonian men) were associated with a desire to have fewer children (Puur et al.2008).


There is little researchon the demographic behavior of the Russian origin population in the EuropeanUnion. We exploit this context for testing the applicability of differentexplanatory models of migrant fertility on fertility intentions. Using a bi-nationalsample allows us to examine the role of selectivity. Finally, we expect toincorporate a wider range of independent and control variables than isgenerally possible in the analyses, drawing from retrospectively collectedchildbearing histories. This is expected to provide an improved chance toaccount for differences in fertility intentions between the groups.

Data and Methods

We use Estonian andRussian data collected within the Generations and Gender Survey (2004-2005). Inthe analysis we include women born in 1960-1983, distinguishing Russians livingin Estonia against the background of Estonians in the host country and Russiansin the origin country based on self-reported ethnicity. Additionally, we attemptto distinguish first generation (migrants) and their descendants.

We use logistic regressionanalysis with first, second and third birth intention as dependent variables.



Preliminary Results

The mean number ofchildren born to Estonian women born in 1960-1983 is the highest among theobserved groups – around 1,51 (Figure 1). The Russian women in Estonia indicatethe lowest number of children ever born at 1,15. Russian women in Russia have ahigher number of children born than Russians in Estonia at 1,29. Estoniansindicate, correspondingly, the highest mean number of born and intendedchildren at 1,85, followed by the Russians in Russia (1,51) and Russians inEstonia (1,49).

Figure 1. Number ofchildren born and intended, Estonians, Russians in Estonia and Russians inRussia, birth cohorts 1960-1983. Source: GGS

Next we will model theintended transitions to first, second and third births, controlling fordemographic, socio-economic and normative characteristics. In particular, weare interested in the association between gender role attitudes andchildbearing intentions. Preliminary results suggest that there are systematicdifferences in the gender role attitudes between the groups (Table 1).

Table 1. Percent of women ineach population group that agree with the statement.


Kulu, H. & González-Ferrer, A. (2014). Family dynamicsamong immigrants and their descendants in Europe: Current research andopportunities. European Journal of Population 30(4): 411-435.

Kulu, H., Hannemann, T., Pailhé, A., Neels, K., Krapf,S., Andresson, G. (2017). Fertility by birth order among the descendants of immigrantsin selected European countries. Population and Development Review 43(1):31-60.

Milewski, N. (2010). Fertility of immigrants. Atwo-generational approach in Germany. Springer.

Pailhé, A. (2009). Work-family balance and childbearingintentions in France, Germany and Russia. Paper presented to IUSSP XXVIInternational Population Conference, Marrakech, Morrocco, September 27-October2.

Puur, A., Oláh, L., Tazi-Preve, M.I., Dorbritz, J. (2008). Men’schildbearing desires and views of the male role in Europe at the dawn of the21st century. Demographic Research 19(56): 1883-1912.

Puur, A. and Klesment, M. (2012). Signs of stable orprovisional increase in fertility? Reflections on developments in Estonia. Demográfia54(5): 31-55.

Puur, A., Rahnu, L., Abuladze, L., Sakkeus, L., Zakharov, S.(2017). Childbearing among first- and second generation Russians in Estoniaagainst the background of the sending and host countries. DemographicResearch 36(41): 1209-1254.

Presented in Session 1087: International Migration and Migrant Populations