January 11, 2022 | Press Release

Fertility in the U.S.: Does Migration Influence the Timing of First Births Across Racial/Ethnic Groups Equally?

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Women's place of birth helps to explain racial/ethnic disparities in the timing and quantum of fertility. MPIDR Researcher Andrés Castro and Emilio Parrado, Professor at the University of Pennsylvania demonstrate how foreign-born mothers are more determinant for Hispanic's fertility patterns than Black's and White's.

In the U.S., ethno-racial disparities in fertility rates gradually converged in recent decades. However, differences in the age of transition to motherhood remain. The role of foreign-born women is examined in a study that was recently published in Demographic Research.

“We analyze how the timing of first births varies by the place of birth of the mothers, and how this variation contributes to more significant differentials among Hispanic, White and Black women”, says Andrés Castro, former research scientist at the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock, Germany.

After arriving in the US, foreign-born Hispanic women are more likely to have their first child

The unique first birth pattern of foreign-born women has a notable impact on Hispanic women's fertility patterns. In the first years after arriving in the US, foreign-born Hispanic women are more likely to have their first child than US-native Hispanics of the same age, regardless of their age at arrival. That means that the age-specific fertility rates are higher among foreign-born women compared to native-born.

Accounting for this temporal correlation between migration and transition to motherhood reduces differences between Hispanic and White women in the average age at first birth and the proportion of childless women.

In contrast, the impact of foreign-born women on White and Black women’s first births patterns is more modest in scope.

For their study, the researchers used data from the National Survey of Family Growth from 1997 to 2017.

Foreign-born status as an additional source of heterogeneity within ethnic groups

Attempts to diagnose and promote reproductive health behaviors that lead to reduction in early and unplanned childbearing, especially among minorities, need to recognize the unique position of foreign-born women relative to their U.S. born counterparts. “Our analysis highlights foreign-born status as an additional source of heterogeneity that is not always recognized or addressed in the formulation of reproductive health policies”, says Andrés Castro.

Original Publication

Castro, A., Parrado, E.: Nativity differentials in first births in the United States: Patterns by race and ethnicity. Demographic Research (2021). DOI: 10.4054/DemRes.2022.46.2

Authors and Affiliations

Andrés Castro, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock

Emilio Parrado, University of Pennsylvania

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Author of the paper

The Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) in Rostock is one of the leading demographic research centers in the world. It's part of the Max Planck Society, the internationally renowned German research society.