Speeding up for a son? Fertility transitions among first and second generation migrants to Canada

Alicia Adsera, Princeton University
Ana Ferrer, University of Calgary

A large literature focuses in exploring the phenomenon of “missing women”, particularly in Asia and the Middle East. Both unequal treatment of children across gender-lines and selective abortion have been found to explain the noticeable higher shares of boys in societies where families express a strong preference for having a son. We expect that in more developed societies where children are not as essential for old-age insurance and where intermarriage and cultural assimilation may dilute ancestral traditions, fertility behavior of migrants arriving from areas with strong son-preference should slowly resemble that of natives. To understand the speed of those changes we explore the fertility transitions of both first and second generation Canadian immigrants using the 20% sample of the Canadian Census of Population for the years 1991, 1996, 2001 and 2006. Using women 16-45 years of age, we study the relevance of ethnic and religious background in explaining the differential speed of transitioning to either a second or a third birth conditional on the gender composition of the previous births. We find that on average first generation migrants space children more separately than native-Canadian if the first born is a son. Interestingly, in the transition to the third child, transitions among native-Canadian are the fastest if the first two children are boys but among first generation migrants a third birth occurs sooner if the first two born are girls. Across religious groups, Hindis and Sikhs differentially speed up the second birth after a first-born girl. This gap increases even more in the transition to third birth.. Both first generation migrants from Asia and those of Asian descent have substantially faster transitions after the birth of a girl than any other group. Nonetheless the younger migrants are when arriving into Canada, the most their fertility behavior resembles those of natives.

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Presented in Session 1: Fertility