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Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Cultural Differences in Fertility Levels in the U.K.

The United Kingdom has been generally welcoming to immigrants from its former colonies in Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean. Each group has brought with it various cultural differences, including religion, that shape the U.K., especially in urban areas where most immigrants settle. The expectation in demography generally is that immigrants will have higher fertility than the native population, but that their children will reproduce at a rate closer to that of the native population. Hill Kulu and Tina Hannemann have found an exception to this pattern in the U.K. among descendants of immigrants from Pakistan and Bangladesh. Their findings just came out in the online journal Demographic Research. Here is what the data show, drawing upon the longitudinal Understanding Society project in the U.K.:

Kulu and Hannemann show that Pakistani and Bangladeshi women are just as likely to have a first child at about the same age as natives. So, the starting of a family is not different. What differs is that they are much more likely to have a second, third, and fourth child. This is not attributable to differences in education or employment status. Rather, the difference seems to be largely a function of culture, which includes religion (almost all immigrants from those two countries are Muslim), and coming themselves from and valuing large families. 

Of particular interest, though, is the finding that there is a certain bipolar distribution among immigrant groups and their descendants. Not all women act alike. Some (albeit still the minority) delay marriage and childbearing, while others are more likely to be the ones having a fourth child. The future will vary considerably depending upon which group gains the most traction over time.

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