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Baby Bust: Fertility and America's Economy

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Friday, April 19, 2019   

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – It wasn't that long ago that American women regularly gave birth to five or 10 children, but fertility rates across the U.S. continue to decline, with data showing that 2017 had the country's lowest rate since the government started keeping records.

Some of the largest drops have been among Hispanic women, and demographers say that's because they are catching up to their peers who have chosen smaller families for economic and career reasons.

Demographer Lina Guzman is the senior researcher and director of Child Trends' Hispanic Institute. Guzman says generational differences between Hispanic immigrants and their American-born daughters and granddaughters is causing much of the downturn.

"Latino women, their fertility rates have declined by close to a third since 2006,” says Guzman. “White and black women have also seen declines, but their declines were of a much smaller magnitude – somewhere between 5% to 11%."

In addressing immigration at the southern border, President Donald Trump recently declared the U.S. to be "full" – and encouraged immigrants to stay in Central America. Some economists warn, however, that with population growth at its slowest rate in 80 years, that message is short-sighted because American economic growth will depend on immigration and racial minorities.

Fertility rates are still the highest among Hispanics compared with any other racial or ethnic group. Guzman notes, however, that young Hispanic women soon will have an average of two children – down from three just a decade ago – because birth control is more accepted.

"Much more increased use of contraceptives, much more use of effective contraceptions like the IUD, and much more consistent use of contraception – that is also likely playing a role," says Guzman.

The largest decline in Hispanic fertility rates has been among women of Mexican heritage, who account for nearly two-thirds of all Hispanics and around 11% of the American population.


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