Migrant Fertility in Europe: Accelerated Decline during the Recent Recession Period?

Tomáš Sobotka, Vienna Institute of Demography

This study gives an overview of trends in fertility of migrant women in Europe, partly providing a follow up of an earlier research (Sobotka 2008). It makes use of expanding datasets on aggregate-level fertility of migrant women and covers about 30 countries, representing well the broader regions in Europe. I focus especially on fertility rates of women born abroad and contrast them with fertility of the “native-born” women. Despite its weaknesses, I use especially the period total fertility rates (TFR) for native and migrant women, which can be computed and compared for most countries in Europe, especially for the more recent period since 2008. The main analysis is focused on the period of economic recession and stagnation in 2008-13, i.e., before the recent wave of “refugee migration” in 2015-16 affecting migration streams and migrant composition of several European countries.

By and large, fertility rates tended to fall among both native and migrant populations during the recession period. In most countries (11 out of 15 analysed) migrant fertility rates fell faster than fertility of the native women during the recession period in both absolute and relative terms. The fall in migrant fertility was steepest in Southern European countries that were strongly affected by the economic downturn and employment uncertainty. Period TFR among migrant women also fell steeply in most countries, where its initial level in 2008-10 was relatively high (above 2 births per woman). Migrant TFR fell by more than 0.3 in absolute terms in four Southern European countries (Greece, Italy, Portugal, Spain), but also in Iceland, Norway and England and Wales. In most European countries, migrant groups combined have now reached a low period TFR below two births per woman. Therefore, the notion of “exceptionally high” migrant fertility, present in some popular discourses, is not supported by the data.


Presented in Session 1167: Fertility