Academic journal article Demographic Research

First and Second Births among Immigrants and Their Descendants in Switzerland

Academic journal article Demographic Research

First and Second Births among Immigrants and Their Descendants in Switzerland

Article excerpt


The fertility of migrants in Europe has attracted much attention in the literature, for three main reasons. Firstly, on average and in most countries, migrants' fertility is higher than the fertility of natives (Kahn 1988; Kulu et al. 2017), thus contributing to the slowing of population ageing (Sobotka 2008). Secondly, given that migrants face worse employment and economic outcomes (Algan et al. 2010; Alba 1985; Kogan 2007; Portes 1994; Portes and Rumbaut 2005) and greater challenges in cultural adaptation (Canales and Zlolniski 2000; Kevisto 2001; Levitt 2004; Portes 1997, 1999; Vertovec 2003), migrants' higher fertility is seen as challenging social welfare and social cohesion (Crul and Vermeulen 2003; De Valk 2011; Höhn 2005; Kulu et al. 2017). Thirdly, in the literature on migrants' integration, differential fertility patterns between migrants and majority populations are used as indicators of the degree of migrants' sociocultural integration (Dubuc 2015).

In the past, the literature focusing on family dynamics among immigrants has looked at high-fertility immigrant groups migrating to low-fertility countries in Europe and North America and has found patterns of gradual adaptation of migrants' fertility (Andersson 2004; De Valk 2011; Ford 1990; Kulu 2005; Kulu and Milewski 2007). Many such studies report overall differences in fertility levels and show that age at immigration, duration of stay, reasons for migration, and labour force participation affect migrant fertility (Abbasi-Shavazi and McDonald 2000; Andersson and Scott 2005, 2007; Holland and De Valk 2013; Kulu and Milewski 2007; Toulemon 2004).

However, many studies do not address the large heterogeneity between different groups of migrants (Coleman 1994; Sobotka 2008). Given the general fertility decline in most sending countries, interest in that topic has increased. Kulu and colleagues (2015) show that immigrants from Pakistan and Bangladesh in the United Kingdom and immigrants from Turkey in France, Belgium, Germany, and Switzerland exhibit significantly higher first-birth rates than most other population subgroups. Second- generation immigrants in these groups bear children sooner and more often than natives in their home countries (Kulu et al. 2015).

We know little about the first and second birth risks of different immigrant groups in Switzerland, particularly for new migrants from Portugal, Turkey, and the Balkan regions (Fibbi et al. 2015; Wanner 2012).3 Such lack of knowledge is regrettable, given that Switzerland has one of the highest quotas of immigrants in Europe (Marks 2005). In 2015 about 36% of the Swiss population had immigrant origins (first- and second-generation immigrants) (FSO 2017). This high proportion is the combined result of a restrictive naturalisation policy, which keeps migrants in the status of foreigners, and generally higher fertility rates compared to the native population (Fibbi and Wanner 2009; Wanner 2012).

Not only is the migrant population high, but it is also highly diversified in terms of geographic origin, socioeconomic position, and migration trajectories (Afonso 2004; Bolzman 2001; Fibbi, Lerch, and Wanner 2010; Lagana, Chevillard, and Gauthier 2013; Lerch and Wanner 2010). Four-fifths of the immigrants come from various European countries but their migration history is heterogeneous. At the beginning of the 21st century the largest immigrant group in Switzerland came from Italy, followed by immigrants from Germany and Portugal (Federal Statistical Office 2014). Children of immigrants, commonly referred to as second-generation immigrants, have been educated and socialised in their parents' host country for decades and constitute a substantial subgroup (Crul 2013; Crul and Mollenkopf 2012). Lagana and colleagues (2013) estimate that the proportion of children born to migrant parents in Switzerland is about 10%, of which 4% have Italian or Spanish parents and 5.4% have parents from the groups that have arrived more recently from Portugal, former Yugoslavia, and Turkey. …

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