Expert Commentary

Immigration: Impact on childcare prices, U.S. women’s fertility

2015 study published in Demography that analyzes immigration’s effect on the childcare prices and women's childbearing decisions.


Though immigration is credited — or blamed — for many changes in American society, research into the accuracy of these assertions oftentimes finds a different story. For example, neighborhoods with growing immigrant populations are more likely to have falling, not increasing, crime rates. Most immigrants, not few, place a high value on learning English. Immigration policy affects immigrants’ interactions with society. After President Obama enacted the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program for some undocumented immigrants, many became more likely to open bank accounts and get new jobs.

Untangling the overall economic impacts of immigration to the United States also has prompted significant research. Studies suggest that immigrants are highly represented in skilled fields, thanks in part to special visa programs. Researchers also have found that reductions in immigrant arrivals can cause labor shortages in agriculture, resulting in higher fruit and vegetable prices.

A December 2015 study published in Demography examines immigration’s impact on a narrow slice of the U.S. economy – the childcare industry. The study, “Fertility Responses of High-Skilled Native Women to Immigrant Inflows,” considers how an influx of immigrants affects the price of childcare and U.S. women’s decision to have children. Delia Furtado, an economics professor at the University of Connecticut, used U.S. Census data from 1980 to 2000 to compare immigrant inflows with American women’s likelihood of having a baby. She focused specifically on how well-educated women react to the change.

The study’s findings include:

  • The immigration of low-skilled immigrants into the U.S. between 1980 and 2000 led to “substantial” reductions in the cost of childcare.
  • White, non-Hispanic women who were native to the U.S. and between the ages of 22 and 42 were more likely to grow their families when more immigrants moved into the community. They were 0.065 percentage points more likely to give birth for each 1 percentage-point increase in the share of low-skilled immigrants in the same urban area.
  • Women older than 35 were most likely to base decisions about whether to have another child on changes in childcare costs. Women in this age group showed a 0.27 percentage-point increase in birth likelihood for each 1 percentage-point increase in the population share of low-skilled immigrants.
  • The fertility rates of women with graduate degrees were more closely linked to increased immigration than those of women who had only undergraduate degrees. For every 1 percentage point increase in immigrant share, there was a 0.46 percentage-point increase in the likelihood that women with graduate degrees would have a child but only a 0.21 percentage-point increase for women with just a college degree.

The author states that her findings have important implications for countries with low fertility rates, including Japan and those in southern Europe. “My analysis suggesting that immigrant inflows also increase fertility rates of natives [of the U.S.], particularly native women with graduate degrees, provides an additional avenue through which immigration policy can remedy below-replacement fertility rates,” Furtado states.

Related research: A 2014 study in the Journal of Human Resources, “Low-Skilled Immigration and Parenting Investments of College-Educated Mothers in the United States,” looks at the impact of low-skilled immigration on how parents spend their time.


Keywords: immigration, motherhood, childcare, daycare, preschool, economics, labor



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