Fertility and Adaptation: Indochinese Refugees in the United States
International Migration Review, Vol. 20, No. 2, pp. 428-466, Summer 1986
40 Pages Posted: 9 Jul 2011 Last revised: 27 Jul 2012
Date Written: 1986
Levels of fertility among Indochinese refugees in the United States are explored in the context of a highly compressed demographic transition implicit in the move from high-fertility Southeast Asian societies to a low-fertility resettlement region. A theoretical model is developed to explain the effect on refugee fertility of social background characteristics, migration history and patterns of adaptation to a different economic and cultural environment, controlling for marital history and length of residence in the U.S. Multiple regression techniques are used to test the model, which was found to account for nearly half of the variation in refugee fertility levels in the United States. Fertility is much higher for all Indochinese ethnic groups (Vietnamese, Chinese-Vietnamese, Cambodian, Lao, Hmong) than it is for American women; the number of children in refugee families is in turn a major determinant of welfare dependency. Adjustments for rates of natural increase indicate a total 1985 Indochinese population of over one million, making it one of the largest Asian-origin populations in the United States. This remarkable phenomenon has occurred in less than a decade. Implications of these findings for public policy are discussed, focusing on family planning, maternal and child health needs, and the attainment of refugee economic self-sufficiency.
Keywords: Fertility, Immigration, Adaptation, Indochinese Refugees, Vietnamese, Cambodians, Laotians, Hmong, Welfare Dependency, Maternal and Child Health, Economic Self-Sufficiency
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