The Same Fertility Ideals as in the Country of Origin? A Study of the Personal Ideal Family Size among Immigrant Women in Italy


  • Eleonora Mussino Stockholm University
  • Livia Elisa Ortensi University of Milan, Bicocca



Ideal number of children, Fertility, Migrants, Italy, Gender Norms


The role of the personal ideal family size for international migrants has rarely been studied in the current debate on fertility and migration in the European context. It is not known to which extent the reduction of fertility observed among immigrants who settle in a country where fertility is lower than in their country of origin is the result of a change in fertility norms among those immigrants. The study of migrants’ ideals family size has the potential to shed light on fertility norms without the interference of economic conditions and migration-related disruptive phenomena. Due to the complexity of its migration context, Italy is an interesting destination country for studying changes in migrants’ ideal family sizes. This paper uses data from the survey of the Italian National Institute of Statistics (ISTAT) on immigrant families conducted in 2011-12. We compare the personal ideal family size of women of reproductive age with the prevalent norm in their country of origin, applying a multinomial logistic regression analysis. Results show that the country of origin has an important role in the determination of immigrants’ ideal family sizes. Women from countries where large families are the ideal are more likely to show a lower personal ideal family size compared to their non-migrant co-nationals, while women from countries where two children are considered ideal mostly share the same norm. The occurrence of fertility preferences expressed in a non-numeric form (e.g. “Up to God”) changes between women with different countries of origin. This study confirms that conformity with the ideal of the country of origin is more likely among women who migrated as adults. At the same time, the number of years spent in the destination country is not significantly associated with a shift away from the norms prevalent in the country of origin. Finally, female empowerment and gender equity show their effects mainly on the reduction of non-numeric responses.


*             This article belongs to a special issue on migrant fertility.




How to Cite

Mussino, E. and Ortensi, L.E. 2019. The Same Fertility Ideals as in the Country of Origin? A Study of the Personal Ideal Family Size among Immigrant Women in Italy. Comparative Population Studies. 43, (Feb. 2019). DOI:



Research Articles