Language usage and fertility in the Mexican-origin population of the United States

Gray Swicegood, Frank D. Bean, Elizabeth Hervey Stephen, Wolfgang Opitz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article examines the effects of English proficiency and female education on cumulative and recent fertility within the Mexican-origin population in the U.S. To ascertain whether the cultural or the human capital aspects of linguistic variables have the greater salience for fertility behavior, fertility patterns of bilingual women are compared with those of monolingual women speaking English or Spanish. Using the 1980 U.S. Census 5 percent Public Use Micro data Sample for ever-married Mexican-origin women aged 15-44, we find that for almost all age cohorts, thee effects of English proficiency are negative and increase with rising education. The strength of the interaction is greater in younger age groups. Greater English proficiency is also associated with a more negative impact of education for native- than foreign-born women. Overall, the influence of "opportunity cost," asopposed to cultural factors, is more important in shaping the fertility behavior of these women.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)17-33
Number of pages17
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1988

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Demography


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