Determinants of fertility across context : a comparison of Mexican and Turkish immigrant women



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Immigrant women are frequently found to have higher fertility relative to women in the majority population. This is often attributed to their socioeconomic characteristics, cultural preferences and patterns of childbearing, and adaptation to the destination context. However, several limitations in the research to date may mask the associations and processes which shape women’s fertility: 1) frequently used indicators are not sensitive to the way in which fertility is shaped by the migration process 2) key proximate determinants of fertility are often not integrated into analyses and 3) non‐migrant women in sending countries are often excluded as a reference for immigrant women’s childbearing behavior. In order to assess how women’s migratory moves and social context affect fertility, I compare the risk of first birth and patterns of contraceptive use at higher‐order parities for non‐migrant, immigrant and native‐born women. For these analyses, I use data from nationally‐representative surveys of reproductive health and family formation from Mexico, the United States, Turkey and Germany. The results from these analyses demonstrate that both foreign‐born Mexican‐ and Turkish‐origin immigrant women experience first birth earlier than non-migrants, second generation immigrants, and native-born women at destination. However the underlying determinants of earlier birth are different for these two groups. There are also differences for second generation women; US-born Mexicans experience first birth at significantly younger ages than whites, whereas age at first birth is very similar for German-born Turkish women and ethnic Germans. Furthermore, patterns of contraceptive use among immigrant women who have at least one child are notably different than patterns observed for non-migrants. US-born women have similar contraceptive use compared to whites, but Mexican-born women are less likely to use permanent and highly effective methods, even after controlling for fertility intentions. Turkish-origin women in Germany exhibit large differences in contraceptive use relative to non-migrant women, particularly the very low reported use of withdrawal. These findings indicate that fertility determinants vary across origin and destination context. The observed differences between Mexican- and Turkish-origin women suggest that distinct processes of migration, socialization, and access to contraception lead to variation in the fertility outcomes for these two groups.