Fertility and migration

By Arianna Garofalo


Over the past three decades, the drop in fertility rates has been accompanied by high rates of migration in several developing countries. We argue that migration affects fertility negatively in the countries of origin. To analyze the effect of migration we build a fertility choice model, based on De La Croix (2014), with endogenous migration decisions. In this framework, when a member of the household migrates abroad, income increases due to remittances but at the same time, individuals left at home face a much higher opportunity cost time. This means that household members have less time to devote to taking care of the children and the consequence is a decrease in fertility. We calibrate the model to match the migration rates and to quantify the effect of migration on the fertility rate in those countries. To this end, we first show that the model can replicate the high rate of migrations in several developing countries. Then we perform two counterfactual exercises to address the effect of our mechanism. In the first exercise, we keep the migration constant as in the benchmark model while we give a higher value to the time cost of migration. The result is an increase in fertility. In the second exercise, we quantify how the differences in the time cost of migration affect the differences in fertility. We found that the time cost of migration accounts for 53% of the fall in the fertility of the developing countries in our sample between 1990 and 2017.

Open migration is the solution to several global problems. This paper shows that it can also contribute is important ways to reducing population growth, at least if the children members remain in the origin country and thus rely on remittances.

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