The children of immigrants typically have smaller families than their parents’ generation, even when their parents’ generation had larger families than the UK norm, according to new research from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).
Dr Ben Wilson of LSE’s Department of Methodology carried out a comprehensive study of family sizes in the UK, using a method that allows completed family sizes to be compared across migrant generations and across countries of origin.
The analysis found family size converged across generations for women with Irish or Jamaican ancestry. The children of Irish and Jamaican immigrants were found to have smaller families than their parents, as well as families that are similar in size to those of UK ancestral natives.
In general, Dr Wilson finds that the children of immigrants typically have smaller families than their parents’ generation, especially when their parents’ generation had larger families than the UK norm.
Additionally, although Pakistani and Bangladeshi immigrants have family sizes that are lower than their parents, they have yet to converge with the UK norm. The authors note that the reasons for this are unclear, but are likely to include factors such as residential segregation.
Dr Wilson said: “In general, this research dispels the myth of the large immigrant family. On average we see that the completed family size of foreign-born and UK-born women has been almost identical for everyone who was born after the 1950s. Although we do see some significant differences for older generations, these are only evident for some countries of origin.
“It seems to be very rare now for any group of immigrants in the UK to have more children than the UK norm, and this is also true for the children of immigrants. For some groups, such as those from North Africa and the Middle East, the children of immigrants even have smaller families than the UK norm.”
The UK has one of the largest populations of immigrants and their descendants in Europe, with the number of foreign-born residents increasing significantly over the last few decades. Between 1970 and 2016 the foreign-born population grew by more than five and a half million in the UK.
The findings shed light on the likely long-term impact of immigration the future population size of the UK, and the extent to which the descendants of immigrants are choosing between the norms of their parents and the norms of society. The findings also reflect the almost global convergence toward small family sizes that is occurring in most countries of the world.
For more information
The Intergenerational Assimilation of Completed Fertility: Comparing the Convergence of Different Origin Groups was published in International Migration Review on 31 May 2018.