Collaborative Research: International Migration and Fertility: Towards a Multidimensional Understanding

Project: Research project

Project Details


Overview: Migration and fertility are two major components of social and demographic change; the proposed research represents one of the first efforts to explore the association between international migration and fertility that combines data from both sending and receiving countries using a propensity score matching approach. To date, most studies have been limited to the use of data sources collected primarily in receiving countries and have typically compared migrants to native-born residents of the receiving country, rather than to residents of their country of origin with whom they share a common background. Because migrants often have higher fertility than native-born populations of low-fertility countries, it may appear that there is little association between migration and fertility. However, this may only be the result of comparing migrants to native-born women in receiving countries rather than women in sending countries who are similar in observed characteristics. Moreover, limited research explores whether migrant fertility is high due to high desired fertility, high unmet need for family planning, or other factors. In contrast, the proposed project integrates cross-sectional data from the Trajectories et Origines (TeO) survey and the Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) to create a novel data set that allows for matching highly similar African and Asian respondents who did and did not migrate from sending countries to France. This enables us to: (1) Investigate the association between international migration and fertility by comparing migrants in receiving countries to similar non-migrants in sending countries; and (2) Explore the association between international migration and underlying reproductive desires and behaviors that could help explain why migration is associated with fertility, including fertility desires, contraceptive use and unmet need for family planning, employment, and partnership formation. Intellectual merits: This study will provide improved estimates of the association between international migration and fertility by comparing migrants to women in sending countries who are comparable on observed characteristics rather than to women in receiving countries. The project will also contribute to theoretical understanding of why migration is associated with fertility by exploring a number of outcomes that provide insight into the different mechanisms through which migration influences fertility. As part of this, the study also explores how migration is associated with contraceptive usage and access, a topic which has been underexplored in the literature. This allows us to better understand whether migrant fertility reflects preferences about family size, unmet need for family planning, or other factors. Broader Impacts: A major societal concern is women’s ability to realize their fertility goals and regulate their fertility as desired. To better understand the differences between the fertility of migrants and native-born members of the population, more investigation is necessary into the causes of high migrant fertility, whether high desired fertility or high unmet need for family planning. The findings from the proposed study will have important implications not only for scholarly knowledge, but also for framing the policy and reproductive healthcare needs of migrant populations. Our findings will have the potential to inform outreach strategies and public health campaigns that are intended to reduce unintended pregnancy and inequities in reproductive healthcare access and unmet need for
Effective start/end date8/1/198/31/23


  • National Science Foundation (SES-1918274)


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