American women had far fewer babies after the onset of the Great Recession, which made 2011 the year with the nation’s lowest recorded birth rate. But it is immigrant women, specifically Mexican immigrant women, who had the steepest drop in births, a 23 percent lower birth rate between 2007 and 2010. By comparison, the drop during those years for U.S.-born women was 6 percent, and among all foreign-born women it was 14 percent.
According to the new Pew Research Center report released today, it was not just foreign-born Latinas who had fewer children. The authors, demographers D’Vera Cohn and Gretchen Livingston, report that U.S.-born Hispanic women also had larger birth rate declines in the years between 2007 and 2010 than women of other ethnic or racial groups.
The numbers tell the picture quite clearly. Between 1990 and 2010, for example, the birth rate among U.S.-born Hispanic women dropped from 82.4 percent to 65.4 percent, a 21-point decline. Among foreign-born Latinas, there was a 30 percent drop from 1990 to 2010. And during the Great Recession years, between 2007 and 2010, births to Mexican women went down from 455,000 births in 2007 to 346,000 — a 24 percent drop.
While the authors say the report does not address the reasons for the birth declines after 2007, they point out previous Pew Research analysis which finds “that the recent fertility decline is closely linked to economic distress.” The report notes that states with the largest economic declines from 2007 to 2008 were most likely to see fertility declines from 2008 to 2009. Hispanics had the largest decline in household wealth — 66 percent — during the Great Recession, as well as higher unemployment and poverty rates.
The report’s findings do not surprise Leticia Mederos, vice president of the National Partnership for Women and Families. “The size of a family is clearly an issue of economic security to so many Latino families, and very connected to pocketbook issues,” she notes.
It is important to note, however, that immigrants and their families are projected to account for 82 percent of the U.S. population’s growth by 2050. In fact, the 23 percent share of all 2010 births to foreign-born mothers was higher than the 17 percent share of women immigrants ages 15 to 44. And of all Hispanic births in 2010, 56 percent were to immigrant mothers.
One interesting finding is the age at which immigrant women have children. More immigrant women over the age of 35 give birth than do U.S.- born women. In 2010, 33 percent of births to women aged 35 or older were among immigrant women. Conversely, very few foreign-born women are teen moms (5 percent) in part because of the age profile of immigration.