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The interaction of migration and reproduction : the fertility processes of Chinese immigrants in Canada Zhao, Jing


This dissertation investigates how Chinese immigrants perceive and practice having children in the course of immigration from China to Canada. While previous studies focus solely on post-immigration fertility outcomes, my research includes prior-to-immigration childbearing perceptions and experiences to provide a holistic framework of fertility processes. Using 42 in-depth interviews, I collect qualitative data on participants’ immigration journey and childbirth history as well as their own accounts of understanding, reasoning about, and reflecting on their lived experiences. Through comparing across-group differences between immigrants who had children in China and those who had children in Canada, as well as within-group differences between people who had more children and those who had fewer, I find that moving across borders at different stages of the reproductive process shapes the ways people perceive immigration to Canada as a temporary stay, permanent settlement, periodic circulation, or springboard to other places. At the same time, variations in navigating immigration systems and reception institutions account for divergences in the timing, spacing, number of childbirths, and citizenship of children. I argue that immigration screening in the first place and reception contexts in turn channel immigrants into different reproduction trajectories. I develop an Embodied Dynamics Model to elucidate the constellation of institutional, relational, and situational dynamics that shape the ways individuals cope with moving across borders and having children simultaneously as the individual life course unfolds over time and across space. I argue that immigrant fertility is best understood as a social reproduction process across borders, which involves ongoing triadic interplays of making sense of biographic situations, cooperating with relational circumstances, and navigating institutional contexts.

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