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Migrants, stayers and the native population

How do their fertility behaviours compare?

woman holding baby

Recent decades have seen a substantial increase in the number of migrants moving from low-fertility countries, including those in Eastern Europe, to other European countries. However, the knowledge about such migrants’ fertility behaviour is still modest and mainly focuses on Polish migrants in the UK. In their recent publication, Jonathan Lindström, Eleonora Mussino and Livia Sz. Oláh (SUDA, Stockholm University) contribute to this literature by examining the childbearing behaviour of Polish migrant women and their descendants in Sweden, comparing them to the native Swedish population and Polish stayers.

The authors analysed the transitions to first and second births based on a piecewise exponential model, using Swedish register data and the Polish Generations and Gender Survey (GGS) first wave following a relatively rare, combined country-of-origin and country-of-destination approach, seeking a more solid test of the socialisation, selection and adaptation hypotheses.

The results support the socialisation hypothesis, as the Polish stayers and the first-generation Polish migrants have their first child at younger ages and are less likely to remain childless than the other groups. At the same time, they are also more likely to not proceed to a second child, unlike the Swedish natives and the second generation. They find partial support for the selection hypothesis. Descriptively, they observe signs of selecting into migration based on education, cohort and marital status. Additionally, their study shows that the impact of marriage varies between stayers and migrants in the first-birth transition, suggesting selection into migration when it comes to unobserved characteristics as well. The adaptation hypothesis is also supported, as the fertility behaviour of the second generation more closely resembles that of the Swedish natives than that of the first generation and differs more from that of the Polish stayers in terms of both quantum and timing of the first and second births.

Their findings confirm that first-generation Polish migrants’ behaviour is more similar to that of stayers compared to natives in the destination country when it comes to the timing of events. Some unexpected dissimilarities can be explained by both the composition of the migrant group and unobserved preferences. Thus, the selection effect can work in two directions, explaining some of the differences as well as some of the similarities in fertility. Convergence across migrant generations in terms of timing and quantum is also supported, particularly with respect to the second child. Swedish multiculturalism seems to accommodate first-generation migrant women’s preferences, in terms of similarities in the timing of both first and second births to their peers in the country of origin. However, the birth spacing and quantum convergence across migrant generations suggest that exposure to the Swedish society and policy context also affects their longer-term fertility behaviour.

Author(s) of the original publication
Eleonora Mussino