Saturday, February 09, 2008

Migration and Fertility in Kyrgyzstan

Migration and first-time parenthood: Evidence from Kyrgyzstan
Lesia Nedoluzhko and Gunnar Andersson


This article investigates the reproductive behavior of young women and men in the post-Soviet Central Asian republic of Kyrgyzstan, focusing on the link between migration and fertility. We employ event-history techniques to retrospective data from the ‘Marriage, Fertility, and Migration’ survey conducted in Northern Kyrgyzstan in 2005 to study patterns in first-time parenthood. We demonstrate the extent to which internal migration is related to family formation and to the patterns of becoming a parent after resettlement. We gain deeper insights into demographic behavior by considering information on factors such as the geographical destination of migration and retrospectively stated motives for reported moves. In addition, our study reveals clear ethno-cultural differences in the timing of entry into parenthood in Kyrgyzstan.

In Kyrgyzstan, between 1990 and 2005 total fertility decreased by some thirty percent. Nevertheless, together with Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, it still remains a pronounced high-fertility country, with a Total Fertility Rate (TFR) in 2005 of around 2.6 children per woman, a feature that rather makes it belong to a group of countries that are in their very first demographic transition. There are differences in fertility among population subgroups, however. While the native Kyrgyz generally have a high fertility, the population of European origin has a fertility that is below replacement level. Significant differences in fertility also exist across regions and different types of settlements. The TFR is higher in rural areas than it is in urban areas: 2.9 versus 2.2.

Model 3 of Table 2 reveals that migration caused by marriage increases the first birth propensity past migration (which should come as no surprise) and that thi tendency entirely explains the elevated fertility that is observed during the first twoyears following migration (see Model 2).

Our analysis indicates that the ‘russified’ group of Asians is significantly different from the other two ethno-cultural groups of our study as concerns their first-birth behavior, thus the group does not occupy an intermediate position between the other two (see Table 2). They have the lowest risk of entry into parenthood: about 30 percent lower than among the ‘Europeans’ and 50 percent lower than among the ‘non-russified Asians’, i.e., they tend to exhibit a reproductive strategy that often entails postponed parenthood. An interaction between age and ethnicity (not shown; p-value = 0.009) reveals that the first-birth risks of Europeans peak at lower ages than for Asians. This finding contradicts the assumption (based on observed differences in total fertility) that early family formation dominates among Asians in general in Kyrgyzstan. However, the finding is supported by census data, these show that Russian women indeed have a lower age at first birth than the aggregated group of Kyrgyz women (23.4 versus 23.7 years). A similar pattern of persistently early entry into parenthood in a population with very low fertility has been observed for Ukraine (cf. Perelli-Harris 2005).

Similar general duration-specific effects of migration on first-birth fertility have been observed for many different types of migrants (cf. Andersson 2004, Toulemon and Mazuy 2004, Kulu 2006, Kulu and Vikat 2007). This suggests that there indeed are strong behavioral regularities in how people tend to locate their family-demographic vital events relative to that of a migration, with childbearing being much more common shortly after a migration than at preparation of such activity. It also calls for a critical stand to various accounts of high fertility of different groups of migrants: Crude statistics on elevated migrant fertility may be more likely to reflect the interrelation between migration and family formation than any real high-fertility behavior.

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