More Benefits, Fewer Children: How Regularization Affects Immigrant Fertility


This paper examines how a Colombian regularization program for Venezuelan migrants affected their fertility decisions. Since 2016, more than 2.5 million Venezuelan migrants have settled in Colombia. 

Colombia’s Permiso Especial de Permanencia (PEP) is a regularization program offered in 2018 to half a million undocumented Venezuelan migrants. PEP beneficiaries are allowed to work and can access to social services for up to two years. 

The analysis draws on data from two waves of the Venezuelan Refugee Panel Study (VenRePS), a longitudinal study of irregular Venezuelan migrants living in Colombia. The authors compare the probability of having young children (conceived after the launch of the PEP program) among households that were eligible and ineligible for PEP before and after the program began. The analysis accounts for time-varying and city-wide factors that potentially influenced household fertility. 

Main results: 

  • The PEP program lowered the probability of having children. Migrant households eligible for PEP were 3.9 percentage points less likely to have children less than one year old, 7 percentage points less likely to have one-year-old children, and 1.8 percentage points less likely to have two-year-old children.  
  • The effects might have partially been due to improved access to public services and labor market opportunities. Access to health care would have lowered the price of raising children (the income effect), while access to the formal labor market would have raised women’s opportunity cost of childbearing and child-rearing (the substitution effect). 

The authors conclude that regularization programs facilitate access to labor market opportunities and public assistance, and in doing so may result in the convergence of migrant fertility to natives while at the same time promoting their integration.