Fertility rates and other demographics among immigrants and children of immigrants born in Norway


Written by: Marianne Tønnessen

The fertility rate among female immigrants in Norway has fallen in recent years, and was 2.1 children per woman in 2012. A key feature is that fertility declines in line with how long a woman has lived in Norway. Newly arrived female immigrants are also having fewer children than they did before.

The report on fertility rates and other demographics among immigrants and children of immigrants born in Norway “ Fruktbarhet og annen demografi hos innvandrere og deres barn født i Norge ” by Marianne Tønnessen provides an updated overview of what we know about the demographics of immigrants in Norway and their children today, with the focus on developments in fertility.

Norway has experienced a sharp rise in immigration over the last 10 years, from 40 000 immigrants in 2002 to nearly 80 000 in 2012. The number of immigrants living in Norway has more than doubled since 2004. Immigrants in Norway now total around 600 000, or 12 per cent of the population.

One in four newborns have an immigrant mother

The growth in the number of immigrants, coupled with the fact that most female immigrants are of an age where it is common to have children, explains why a growing number of babies born in Norway have a mother who is an immigrant. In 2012, 23 per cent of newborn babies – i.e. almost a quarter of all babies – had a mother who was an immigrant. Fifteen years ago, the corresponding figure was less than one in ten.

Fall in fertility among female immigrants as a whole

The fertility rate has increased despite, not because of, developments in fertility among female immigrants. Female immigrants’ fertility rate – i.e. the average number of children per woman - has fallen in the past 10 years, from 2.6 children per woman in 2000 to 2.1 in 2012. For all women in Norway as a whole, the fertility rate was 1.85 in 2012.

Increased fertility among women from East Europe – lower among women from outside Europe

One possible explanation for the decline in fertility may be that the composition of immigrants in Norway has changed since the EU expansion eastwards in 2004. However, analyses show that the fertility rate among women from eastern EU countries has increased significantly over the last 10 years, and is now 2.0 children per woman – i.e. almost on a par with the fertility rate of female immigrants as a whole.

A more important explanation is found among female immigrants from Asia, Africa, Latin America and, to some extent, non-EU countries in Europe. The fertility rate for these women has fallen significantly over the last 10 years. The decline among female immigrants from Asia has been particularly large, with almost one child less per woman.

Number of children is falling worldwide

Among women from Asia, Africa and Latin America, there are two main developments. First, fertility declines the longer a woman has lived in Norway. Second, we see that even among those from Asia, Africa and Latin America with the shortest period of residence the fertility rate is now significantly lower than it was 10-15 years ago. New arrivals are thus having significantly fewer children today than before. This may be because the number of children per woman has gone down considerably in most parts of the world in the last 10 years. Female immigrants who arrived in Norway in 2012, came from countries that were characterised by a lower fertility rate than previously.

Lower fertility among daughters of female immigrants than among non-immigrants

There are large disparities in fertility rates between women who immigrate as children and those who arrive in Norway after they have turned 18. The more of a child’s upbringing that has been spent in Norway, the lower the fertility rate normally. The fertility rate among immigrants’ daughters is also significantly lower than the fertility rate of female immigrants, and also appears to be somewhat lower than for non-immigrants.

Mortality and mobility patterns of immigrants

The report also summarises research by others on immigrants' mortality, migration and mobility patterns. These analyses show that immigrants seem to have a lower mortality rate than the general population – something that is often seen as a paradox.

The probability of emigrating is significantly greater for immigrants than for the general population, particularly if the immigrants originate from other rich countries, or are students or migrant workers. Immigrants also live in more centralised areas than the general population in Norway, but migrant workers seem to be the immigrants that most often move from central to less central municipalities.