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Monday, December 22, 2003
Canada's demographic situation: Fertility of immigrant women
Fertility rates among foreign-born women start to decline relatively soon after they arrive in Canada, and eventually reach those of women who were born in Canada, according to a new study in the latest edition of the Report on the Demographic Situation in Canada, available today.
This change in fertility levels may be an indicator of how these immigrant women integrate into the mainstream of Canadian society, since their fertility tends increasingly to mirror that of Canadian-born women the longer they live in Canada.
This finding is important because Canada is relying more and more on immigration for its population increase as the rate of natural increase - births in excess of deaths - has declined. Since the mid-1990s, net international migration has accounted for more than one-half the total growth in population.
In 2001, Canada received more than 250,000 immigrants. Nearly 70% of the nation's population growth resulted from international migration in this year. Foreign-born population accounted for 18.4% of Canada's population in 2001, the highest proportion in 70 years.
The study used census data to examine fertility rates of immigrant and Canadian-born women over a quarter of a century.
The fertility rate among immigrant women who arrived from 1996 to 2001 was 3.1 children per woman. In contrast, among women who had arrived in Canada 10 to 14 years earlier, the rate was 1.5. (In 2000, the total fertility rate in Canada was also 1.5 children per woman, the lowest rate on record.)
The study found that the tendency for fertility rates to converge was especially noticeable among women who immigrated before the age of 15, and who therefore received part of their education in Canada.
Fertility rates varied from one place of birth to another. Fertility rates remained high during the 25 year period under study for immigrant women from some regions, such as South Asia, Central-Western Asia and the Middle East.
The study also examined fertility rates among the Canadian-born daughters of immigrant women, the second-generation of Canadians. From 1996 to 2001, the total fertility rate for these daughters was 1.4 children per woman, less than 1.8 children per woman among all first-generation immigrant women.
Fertility rates down for both immigrant and Canadian-born women
The 2001 Census enumerated 337,700 children aged less than five who were born in Canada to mothers who had immigrated.
One indication of the higher fertility of these women is the fact that these youngsters accounted for 22% of all children in this age group. This was somewhat larger than the proportion of immigrants in the entire population (18.4%).
During the studied period, fertility rates declined for both Canadian-born women and their immigrant counterparts.
Among Canadian-born women, the rate fell 10% from 1.64 children per woman during 1976-1981, to 1.47 during 1996-2001. During the same time frame, rates for immigrant women also declined 10%, from 2.03 children per woman to 1.82.
The fastest decline occurred among women from southern Europe, whose rates plunged from 2.17 children to 1.62, a 25% decrease.
Even though it has declined steeply, the fertility of Asian-born women was still 29% higher than that of Canadian-born women during 1996-2001. Among Asian-born women, fertility fell from 2.54 children per woman during 1976-1981 to 1.89 during 1996-2001.
Data from the 2001 Census showed that fertility rates among immigrant women from some regions substantially exceeded the level of two children during 1996-2001. These regions were: South Asia (2.5 children per woman); Central-West Asia and the Middle East (2.2); and Africa (2.4).
Dependence-free aging: Seniors' independence can be prolonged by adopting healthy habits
Canadian seniors can maintain an independent lifestyle longer if they look after themselves. Beyond individual characteristics over which people have no control, chronic conditions and living habits are major factors influencing the long-term maintenance of independence in old age, according to a second study in this report.
The study used longitudinal data from the National Population Health Survey from 1994 to 2000 to assess factors that determine dependence-free aging for seniors aged 65 or over. It found that some 53% of seniors living in private households who are independent in their activities of daily living in 1994 were still independent six years later.
Seniors who were physically active saw their chances of remaining independent during this six-year period increase by more than 50%, compared with those who did not regularly engage in physical activities. Seniors who have never smoked were almost twice as likely as smokers to maintain their independence.
Among chronic conditions, diabetes, heart disease and bronchitis or emphysema significantly lowered their odds of remaining independent.
The study suggests that promoting good health could help delay - and prevent - the onset of some functional health problems among seniors, thereby making them less dependent on both their family and the public health care system.
Demographic situation: Lowest fertility rate on record
This report also provides a comprehensive review of Canada's demographic situation, describing recent trends in population growth, marriages, divorces, fertility, abortions, mortality and migration.
In 2000, Canada's total fertility rate was 1.49 children for every woman, the lowest on record. Fertility in Canada was near the levels of European countries (1.4), but lower than the level observed in the United-States (2.1).
The fertility rate varied between 1.25 children in Newfoundland and Labrador, and 1.79 for women in Saskatchewan.
The decline in fertility rates was especially significant among women aged 20 to 24. In 2000, their rate slipped below the threshold of 60 per thousand for the first time. During the past 30 years, it has fallen by more than one-half.
Fertility was lower in census metropolitan areas than in non-metropolitan areas. The rate for all such urban centres was 1.48 children for every woman, compared with 1.67 in non-metropolitan areas.
All census metropolitan areas east of Oshawa had fertility rates below the national average. St-John's had a fertility rate of 1.24 children per woman. Oshawa had the highest rate (1.66), and Victoria the lowest (1.23).
The 2002 issue of the Report on the Demographic Situation in Canada (91-209-XPE, $35) is now available.
For more information on the article "The fertility of immigrant women and their Canadian-born daughters," contact Alain Bélanger (613-951-2326), Demography Division.
For information on the article "Healthy aging: The determinants of aging without loss of independence among older Canadians," contact Laurent Martel (613-951-2352), Demography Division.