, Volume 48, Issue 3, pp 1059–1080 | Cite as

How High is Hispanic/Mexican Fertility in the United States? Immigration and Tempo Considerations

  • Emilio A. ParradoEmail author


In this article, I demonstrate that the apparently much higher fertility of Hispanic/Mexican women in the United States is almost exclusively the product of period estimates obtained for immigrant women and that period measures of immigrant fertility suffer from three serious sources of bias that together significantly overstate fertility levels: difficulties in estimating the size of immigrant groups; the tendency for migration to occur at a particular stage in life; and, most importantly, the tendency for women to have a birth soon after migration. When these sources of bias are taken into consideration, the fertility of native Hispanic/Mexican women is very close to replacement level. In addition, the completed fertility of immigrant women in the United States is dramatically lower than the level obtained from period calculations. Findings are consistent with classical theories of immigrant assimilation but are a striking departure from the patterns found in previous studies and published statistics. The main implication is that without a significant change in immigration levels, current projections based on the premise of high Hispanic fertility are likely to considerably exaggerate Hispanic population growth, its impact on the ethno-racial profile of the country, and its potential to counteract population aging.


Hispanics Fertility Immigration Assimilation Projections 



I would like to thank S. Philip Morgan for the insights and ideas provided during many lengthy conversations about Hispanic fertility, and Joyce Martin for lending me her expertise with vital statistics data. I would also like to acknowledge the helpful comments and suggestions provided by Sam Preston, Chenoa Flippen, Michel Guillot, Nancy Landale, Doug Ewbank, and anonymous Demography reviewers.


  1. Alba, R., Rumbaut, R., & Marotz, K. (2005). A distorted nation: Perceptions of racial/ethnic group sizes and attitudes toward immigrants and other minorities. Social Forces, 84, 901–919.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Andersson, G. (2004). Childbearing after migration: Fertility patterns of foreign-born women in Sweden. International Migration Review, 38, 747–775.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bledsoe, C., Houle, R., & Sow, P. (2007). High fertility Gambians in low fertility Spain: The dynamics of child accumulation across transnational space. Demographic Research, 16(article 12), 375–412. doi: 10.4054/DemRes.2007.16.12 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bongaarts, J., & Feeney, G. (1998). On the quantum and tempo of fertility. Population and Development Review, 24, 271–291.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Brea, J. A. (2003). Population dynamics in Latin America. Population Bulletin, 58(1).Google Scholar
  6. Camarota, S. (2005). Birth rates among immigrants in America. Washington, DC: Center for Immigration Studies.Google Scholar
  7. Cerrutti, M., & Massey, D. S. (2001). On the auspices of female migration from Mexico to the United States. Demography, 38, 187–200.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Chavez, L. R. (2008). The Latino threat: Constructing immigrants, citizens, and the nation. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  9. Guzman, J. M., Singh, S., Rodriguez, G., & Pantelides, E. A. (Eds.). (1996). The fertility transition in Latin America. Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  10. Hoefer, M., Rytina, N., & Baker, B. C. (2009). Estimates of the unauthorized immigrant population residing in the United States: January 2008 (Population estimates). Washington, DC: Department of Homeland Security, Office of Immigration Statistics.Google Scholar
  11. Huntington, S. (2004). The Hispanic challenge. Foreign Policy, March/April, 30–46.Google Scholar
  12. GAO. (2009). Illustrative simulations of the likely effects of underrepresenting unauthorized residents. U.S. Government Accountability Office. U.S. Labor Force Statistics. GAO-10-99.Google Scholar
  13. Jejeebhoy, S. J. (1995). Women’s education, autonomy, and reproductive behaviour: Experience from developing countries. Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  14. Jonsson, S. H., & Rendall, M. S. (2004). The fertility contribution of Mexican immigration to the United States. Demography, 41, 129–150.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Kohler, H. P., & Ortega, J. A. (2002). Tempo-adjusted period parity progression measures, fertility postponement and completed cohort fertility. Demographic Research, 6(article 6), 91–144. doi: 10.4054/DemRes.2002.6.6 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Landale, N. S., & Oropesa, R. S. (2007). Hispanic families: Stability and change. Annual Review of Sociology, 33, 381–405.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Lindstrom, D. P. (1998). The role of contraceptive supply and demand in Mexican fertility decline: Evidence from a microdemographic study. Population Studies, 52, 255–274.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Lindstrom, D. P., & Giorguli Saucedo, S. (2007). The interrelationship between fertility, family maintenance, and Mexico-US migration. Demographic Research, 17(article 28), 821–858. doi: 10.4054/DemRes.2007.17.28 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Mac Donald, H. (2006). Hispanic family values? City Journal. Retrieved from
  20. Martin, J. A., Hamilton, B. E., Ventura, S. J., Menacker, F., & Park, M. M. (2002). Births: Final data for 2000. National Vital Statistics Reports, 50(5). Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics.Google Scholar
  21. Martin, J. A., Hamilton, B. E., Sutton, P. D., Ventura, S. J., Menacker, F., Kirmeyer, S., & Mathews, T. J. (2009). Births: Final data for 2006. National Vital Statistics Reports, 57(7). Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics.Google Scholar
  22. Parrado, E. A. (2000). Social change, population policies, and fertility decline in Colombia and Venezuela. Population Research and Policy Review, 19, 421–457.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Parrado, E. A., & Flippen, C. A. (2005). Migration and gender among Mexican women. American Sociological Review, 70, 606–632.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Parrado, E. A., & Morgan, S. P. (2008). Intergenerational fertility patterns among Hispanic women: New evidence of immigrant assimilation. Demography, 45, 651–671.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Passel, J. S., & Cohn, D. (2008). U.S. population projections: 2005–2050. Washington, DC: Pew Research Center.Google Scholar
  26. Preston, S. H., & Hartnett, C. S. (2011). The future of American fertility. In J. B. Shoven (Ed.), Demography and the economy (pp. 11–36). Chicago, IL: National Bureau of Economic Research, University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  27. Schoen, R. (2004). Timing effects and the interpretation of period fertility. Demography, 41, 801–819.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Sevak, P., & Schmidt, L. (2008). Immigrant-native fertility and mortality differentials in the United States (WP2008-181). Ann Arbor: Michigan Retirement Research Center, University of Michigan.Google Scholar
  29. Sutton, P. D., & Mathews, T. J. (2006). Birth and fertility rates by Hispanic origin subgroups: United States, 1990 and 2000. Vital Health Statistics 21(57). Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics.Google Scholar
  30. Toulemon, L. (2004). Fertility among immigrant women: New data, a new approach. Population & Societies, 400, 1–4.Google Scholar
  31. U.S. Census Bureau. (2008). U.S. population projections. Retrieved from
  32. Welti, C. (Forthcoming). Estimaciones de la fecundidad con la ENADID—2006. [Fertility estimates from the 2006 ENADID]. In A. M. Chávez and C. Menkes (Coord.), Procesos y tendencias poblacionales en el México Contemporáneo. Una mirada desde la ENADID 2006; CRIM-UNAM, SECRETARÍA DE SALUD; México, D.F.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Population Association of America 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Population Studies CenterUniversity of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA

Personalised recommendations