, Volume 45, Issue 3, pp 651–671 | Cite as

Intergenerational fertility among hispanic women: New evidence of immigrant assimilation



In recent decades, rapid growth of the U.S. Hispanic population has raised concerns about immigrant adaptation, including fertility. Empirical research suggests that Hispanics, especially Mexicans, might not be following the historical European pattern of rapid intergenerational fertility decline (and convergence toward native levels). If confirmed, continued high Hispanic fertility could indicate a broader lack of assimilation into mainstream American society. In this paper, we reexamine the issue of Hispanic and Mexican fertility using an approach that combines biological and immigrant generations to more closely approximate a comparison of immigrant women with those of their daughters’ and granddaughters’ generation. Contrary to cross-sectional results, our new analyses show that Hispanic and Mexican fertility is converging with that of whites, and that it is similarly responsive to period conditions and to women’s level of education. In addition, we employ a mathematical simulation to illustrate the conditions under which cross-sectional analyses can produce misleading results. Finally, we discuss the import of the fertility convergence we document for debates about immigrant assimilation.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Abma, J.C. and L.J. Krivo. 1991. “The Ethnic Context of Mexican American Fertility.” Sociological Perspectives 34:145–64.Google Scholar
  2. Alba, R. and V. Nee. 1997. “Rethinking Assimilation Theory for a New Era of Immigration.” International Migration Review 31:826–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. — 2003. Remaking the American Mainstream: Assimilation and Contemporary Migration. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Amaro, H. 1988. “Women in the Mexican-American Community: Religion, Culture, and Reproductive Attitudes and Experiences.” Journal of Community Psychology 16:6–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Arias, E. 2001. “Change in Nuptiality Patterns Among Cuban Americans: Evidence of Cultural and Structural Assimilation?” International Migration Review 35:525–56.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Aries, P. 1980. “Two Successive Motivations for the Declining Birth Rate in the West.” Population and Development Review 6:645–50.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bean, F. and G. Stevens. 2003. America’s Newcomers and the Dynamics of Diversity. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
  8. Bean, F.D., C.G. Swicegood, and R. Berg. 2000. “Mexican-Origin Fertility: New Patterns and Interpretations.” Social Science Quarterly 81:404–20.Google Scholar
  9. Bean, F.D. and M. Tienda. 1987. The Hispanic Population of the United States. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
  10. Blau, P.M. 1956. “Social Mobility and Interpersonal Relations.” American Sociological Review 21:290–95.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Borjas, G.J. 1987. “Self-Selection and the Earnings of Immigrants.” American Economic Review 77:531–53.Google Scholar
  12. — 2006. “Making It in America: Social Mobility in the Immigrant Population.” NBER Working Paper No. 12088. National Bureau of Economic Research, Cambridge, MA. Available online at Scholar
  13. Boyd, M. 1973. “Occupational Mobility and Fertility in Metropolitan Latin America.” Demography 10:1–17.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Brubaker, R. 2001. “The Return of Assimilation? Changing Perspectives on Immigration and Its Sequel in France, Germany, and The United States.” Ethnic and Racial Studies 24:531–48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Carter, M. 2000. “Fertility of Mexican Immigrant Women in the U.S.: A Closer Look.” Social Science Quarterly 81:1073–86.Google Scholar
  16. Chavez, L.R. 2004. “A Glass Half-Empty: Latina Reproduction and Public Discourse.” Human Organization 63:173–88.Google Scholar
  17. Farley, R. and R. Alba. 2002. “The Educational Enrollment of Immigrant Youth: A Test of the Segmented-Assimilation Hypothesis.” Demography 38:317–36.Google Scholar
  18. Forste, R. and M. Tienda. 1996. “What’s Behind Racial and Ethnic Fertility Differentials?” Population and Development Review 22:109–33.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Frank, R. and P. Heuveline. 2005.“A Cross-over in Mexican and Mexican-American Fertility Rates: Evidence and Explanations for an Emerging Paradox.” Demographic Research, Vol. 12, article 4:77-104. Available online at Scholar
  20. Gordon, M.M. 1964. Assimilation in American Life. The Role of Race, Religion, and National Origins. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  21. Gratton, B. and M.P. Gutmann. 2000. “Hispanics in the United States, 1850–1990: Estimates of Population Size and National Origin.” Historical Methods 33:137–53.Google Scholar
  22. Grogger, J. and S.J. Trejo. 2002. Falling Behind or Moving Up? The Intergenerational Progress of Mexican Americans. San Francisco, CA: Public Policy Institute of California.Google Scholar
  23. Hirschman, C. 2005. “Immigration and the American Century.” Demography 42:595–620.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Huntington, S.P. 2004. Who Are We? The Challenges to America’s National Identity. New York: Simon & Schuster.Google Scholar
  25. Jacoby, T., ed. 2004. Reinventing the Melting Pot. The New Immigrants and What It Means to Be American. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  26. Kasarda, J.D. and J.O.G. Billy. 1985. “Social Mobility and Fertility.” Annual Review of Sociology 11:305–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Kasarda, J.D., J.O.G. Billy, and K. West. 1986. Status Enhancement and Fertility: Reproductive Responses to Social Mobility and Educational Opportunity. Petaluma, CA: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  28. Kivisto, P., ed. 2005. Incorporating Diversity: Rethinking Assimilation in a Multicultural Age. Boulder, CO: Paradigm Publishers.Google Scholar
  29. Long, J.S. 1997. Regression Models for Categorical and Limited Dependent Variables. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  30. Long, J.S. and J. Freese. 2003. Regression Models for Categorical Dependent Variables Using Stata. College Station, TX: Stata Press.Google Scholar
  31. Martin, J.A., B.E. Hamilton, P.D. Sutton, S.J. Ventura, F. Menacker, and S. Kirmeyer. 2006. “Births: Final Data for 2004.” National Vital Statistics Reports 55(1). Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics.Google Scholar
  32. Martin, J.A., B.E. Hamilton, S.J. Ventura, F. Menacker, and M.M Park. 2002. “Births: Final Data for 2000.” National Vital Statistics Reports 50(5). Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics.Google Scholar
  33. Massey, D.S. 1995. “The New Immigration and Ethnicity in the United States.” Population and Development Review 21:631–52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Morgan, S.P., S.C. Watkins, and D. Ewbank. 1994. “Generating Americans: The Fertility of the Foreign-born in the U.S., 1905–10.” Pp. 83–124 in After Ellis Island: Newcomers and Natives in the 1910 Census, edited by S. Watkins. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
  35. Nee, V. and J. Sanders. 2001. “Understanding the Diversity of Immigrant Incorporation: A Forms-of-Capital Model.” Ethnic and Racial Studies 24:386–41.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Park, R.E. 1928. “Human Migration and the Marginal Man.” American Journal of Sociology 33:881–93.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Perlmann, J. 2005. Italians Then, Mexicans Now: Immigrant Origins and Second-Generation Progress, 1890 to 2000. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
  38. Perlmann, J. and R. Waldinger. 1997. “Second Generation Decline? Children of Immigrants, Past and Present—A Reconsideration.” International Migration Review 31:893–922.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Pollard, A.H., F. Yusuf, and G.N. Pollard. 1990. Demographic Techniques. Sydney: Pergamon Press.Google Scholar
  40. Portes, A. and R.G. Rumbaut. 1996. Immigrant America: A Portrait. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  41. — 2001. Legacies: The Story of the Immigrant Second Generation. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  42. Portes, A. and M. Zhou. 1993. “The New Second Generation: Segmented Assimilation and Its Variants.” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences 530:74–96.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Rindfuss, R.R. and J. Sweet. 1977. Postwar Fertility Trends and Differentials in the United States. New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  44. Ruggles, S., M. Sobek, T. Alexander, C.A. Fitch, R. Goeken, P.K. Hall, M. King, and C. Ronnander. 2004. Integrated Public Use Microdata Series: Version 3.0 [Machine-readable database]. Minneapolis, MN: Minnesota Population Center [producer and distributor]. Available on line at Scholar
  45. Rumbaut, R.G., D.S. Massey, and F.D. Bean. 2006. “Linguistic Life Expectancies: Immigrant Language Retention in Southern California.” Population and Development Review 32:447–60.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Smith, J. 2003. “Assimilation Across the Latino Generations.” American Economic Review 93:315–19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. — 2006. “Immigrants and the Labor Market.” Journal of Labor Economics 24:203–33.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Stephen, E.H. 1989. At the Crossroad: Fertility of Mexican-American Women. New York: Garland Publishing Inc.Google Scholar
  49. Swicegood, G. and S.P. Morgan. 1999. “Racial and Ethnic Fertility Differentials in the United States.” Pp. 99–107 in American Diversity: A Demographic Challenge for the Twenty-First Century, edited by N.A. Denton and S.E. Tolnay. Albany: SUNY Press.Google Scholar
  50. Van Bavel, J. 2006. “The Effect of Fertility Limitation on Intergenerational Social Mobility: The Quality-Quantity Trade-off During the Demographic Transition.” Journal of Biosocial Science 38:553–69.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Zhou, M. 1997. “Segmented Assimilation: Issues, Controversies, and Recent Research on the New Second Generation.” International Migration Review 31:825–58.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Population Association of America 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyDuke UniversityDurham

Personalised recommendations