Academic journal article Demographic Research

The Fertility of Immigrants after Arrival: The Italian Case

Academic journal article Demographic Research

The Fertility of Immigrants after Arrival: The Italian Case

Article excerpt



Previous studies show that migration and fertility may be strongly connected and that the migration history and duration of stay should be included in the analysis of reproductive behavior of foreign women.


This study investigates the risk of having a first child in Italy for Albanian, Moroccan, and Romanian women, currently the three largest groups of immigrants to Italy.


By implementing record linkage procedures, we were able to use a longitudinal approach on Italian cross-sectional administrative data on births and international migration. Following the 2003 cohort of immigrants, we estimated the hazard ratio of having a first birth in Italy in the period 2003-2006 using the piecewise-exponential model.


Strong differences by citizenship in the fertility pattern remain even when we control for migratory and demographic factors. At the same time, there is a clear pattern in the timing of motherhood for the different types of migration.


Different citizenships also have different timings of reproduction when the migratory model is taken into account. The high risk for family reasons in the short period is obviously related to the hypothesis of interrelated events, whereas women who come for work reasons need more time to adjust and to decide to have children in the host country.


This study in line with the international literature confirms that, besides the strong arrival effect for the new immigration cohorts on the risk of having a birth in Italy, there is a strong interrelation between the migration and family behavior.

1. Introduction

In Italy, the decline in the total fertility rate (TFR) in recent decades has been particularly strong, even compared to many other European countries (Delgado Perez and Livi Bacci 1992). It is also well known that fertility in Italy is still low (Goldstein, Sobotka, and Jasilioniene 2009). The slight increase recorded in the last few years is in part attributed to the arrival of growing numbers of foreign women, and the significant increase in the foreign female population of childbearing age raises questions about their fertility patterns. Some studies have focused on the impact made by foreigners on Italian period TFR, concluding that the fertility of foreign women is a central factor in the increase of fertility (Billari 2008). Even if it contributes only in part to the recent increase in total fertility, it has had a more important role in pushing up the TFR in Italy than in other European countries (Goldstein, Sobotka, and Jasilioniene 2009). The international literature highlights a strong impact on period fertility due to the high risk of fertility shortly after migration (Alders 2000), so an increase in the number of immigrants may have a direct influence on the TFR. But different citizenship groups have different propensities (Andersson 2004; Sobotka 2008), so the composition of the immigrant flow has to be taken into account. Furthermore, reproductive strategies are often determined by different migration patterns. One can suppose that this is true at least in terms of time and place of childbearing. These considerations point out the importance of studying the determinants of fertility behavior of foreign women and in particular the relationship between international migration and fertility, especially considering a destination country, such as Italy, that has recorded exceptional immigration over the last decade, and has a large heterogeneity by citizenship of immigrants.

This article presents an analysis of the reproductive behaviors of the 2003 cohort of female immigrants to Italy. An initial picture of the heterogeneity of reproductive behaviors of the major foreign communities present in Italy is derived from macro-data provided by official statistics. This information allows us to hypothesize that the differences in immigrant women's reproductive behavior may depend not only on the different contexts of origin (i. …

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