Stockholm University
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Forced migration and the childbearing of women and men: A disruption of the tempo and quantum of fertility?

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posted on 2020-05-05, 13:28 authored by Jan SaarelaJan Saarela, Ben WilsonBen Wilson

It is well known that migrant fertility is strongly associated with age at migration. However the majority of prior research has focussed on foreign-born women who migrated for reasons relating to education, employment, or family reunification. Less is known about the fertility of forced migrants, whose mobility is more likely to be associated with traumatic circumstances. This trauma, and the lack of any opportunity for return migration, may have significant long-run impacts on the quantum and tempo of childbearing, which can both be expected to vary by age at migration. Here, we study a unique example of forced displacement in which the entire population of Finnish Karelia was forced to move to other areas of Finland following the Soviet annexation in the 1940s. The context is unique because of its size and scale, because we have data on almost the whole population of both men and women who moved, and because of the similarity between origin and destination. This similarity means that we are able to investigate the disruptive impact of forced migration, net of other factors that impact migrant fertility such as adaptation. Migrant selectivity also plays a more minor role because of the exogenous nature of the event and the fact that the entire origin population was forced to move. Our results show that, for all ages at migration from 1 to 20, female forced migrants had lower levels of completed fertility than similar women from the rest of Finland, suggesting a permanent and pervasive disruptive effect. Women born in 1940, during the initial forced migration, showed no difference from other Finns. For them, disruption may be counterbalanced by a fertility-increasing effect, as observed elsewhere for people born during a humanitarian crisis. There is less evidence of disruption for men and no evidence for those who migrated around the onset of puberty, suggesting a highly gendered impact of forced migration on fertility. Evidence of disruption persists after controlling for social and spatial mobility, which suggests that there is no major trade-off between reproduction and social progress. We recommend that future research examines the generalisability of our results.


Stiftelsens för Åbo Akademi Forskningsinstitut

the Swedish Research Council (Vetenskapsrådet) via the Swedish Initiative for Research on Microdata in the Social and Medical Sciences (SIMSAM), grant 340-2013-5164 and via project 2017-01021

the Swedish Research Council for Health, Working life and Welfare (FORTE), grant numbers: 2016-07115, 2016-07105 and 2018-00310

the Swedish Foundation for Humanities and Social Sciences (Riksbankens Jubileumsfond, RJ), grant registration number M18-0214:1

the Strategic Research Council of the Academy of Finland, decision number 293103, for the research consortium Tackling Inequality in Time of Austerity (TITA)




Original title

Forced migration and the childbearing of women and men: A disruption of the tempo and quantum of fertility?

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  • English

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