While visible minority women in Canada have more babies on average than white women, their fertility rate is declining even more swiftly than the general population as they adapt to the national norm.
That’s according to a new Statistics Canada report, which confirms that the country’s overall fertility rate continues to drop—from 1.69 children per woman in 1996, to 1.57 in 2001.
In those five years, Canada’s visible-minority population jumped from 3.2 million to 4 million, nearly a 25 per cent increase—far higher than the 1.3 per cent growth among the rest of Canadians. But that growth was fuelled more by immigration than by a higher birthrate. During those same five years, fertility rates among visible-minority women dropped from 1.94 children per woman to 1.70.
Any rate below the replacement level of 2.1 spells a gradually aging populace.
If current trends continue, StatsCan predicts, annual deaths will outnumber births by 2030.
The study also found differences in fertility between specific groups.
Women of Japanese, Chinese and Korean background had fertility rates lower than the Canadian average. At the other end of the spectrum were Arabs/West Asians and South Asians, who averaged two or more children per woman over the same period of time, while Latin American, black, Filipino and Southeast Asian women had a rate close to the visible-minority average.
The report, released last week, suggests religious background could be a factor in explaining the differences.
Muslims and Hindus, at 2.41 and 2 children per woman respectively, had the highest rates, while Buddhists, Orthodox Christians and women with no religion had the lowest rates at 1.34, 1.35 and 1.41 children respectively.
In between were Sikhs, Jews and “other Christians,” while Protestants and Catholics were close to the national average of 1.57.
“The data reveal substantial differences between visible minority groups in the area of religious beliefs,” said the study. “Most Chinese and Japanese women stated that they had no religion. Islam was the religion most often reported by Arab women and more than half of South Asian women were Sikhs or Hindus.”
Other factors such as marital status, income and generation of immigrants could also be at work.