Germany has a lower fertility rate than many other Western countries. The difference in fertility rates is likely to be driven by both socio-economic and institutional factors (e.g., access to childcare) as well as by cultural differences with respect to gender roles and fertility norms. However, disentangling these influences empirically is not straightforward, as both sets of variables likely influence each other.

To deal with this difficulty, the present article focuses on the group of immigrant women and their descendants. It documents that growing up in countries that differ in their fertility rate affects the women's own number of children even if they spend their fertile years under the common institutional setting in Germany. This so called "epidemiological approach" allows relatively clean identification of the cultural influence on fertility. There has been only one such study in the German context so far, which focuses exclusively on first-generation immigrant women. Thanks to a much larger data set (the Mikrozensus 2008, a representative 1% sample of the German population), the present article extends the analysis to second-generation immigrants. The influence of fertility rates in the countries of ancestry is still perceptible here, which is consistent with intergenerational transmission of fertility norms. However, the influence is weaker than in the first generation and still weaker if one parent is from Germany or if the parents are immigrants from two different countries.

From a methodological point of view, the present article makes three contributions: First, the large data set makes it possible to study completed fertility by concentrating on women aged 45 and above and to restrict the sample to women who arrived in Germany below the age of 18 and therefore spent most of their fertile years in the country of migration. Second, the large number of observations allows comparing women from the same country of origin who were born in different years or arrived in Germany at different points in time. This within country approach mitigates concerns about unobserved influences on fertility that might be correlated with the country of origin. Finally, the study goes beyond the usual measure of home country influences (total fertility rates) and additionally considers completed cohort fertility rates and direct measures of fertility norms.


Immigration; fertility; assimilation; intergenerational transmission; Germany