Immigrant Women Lead Drop in Birth Rate

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The U.S. birth rate dropped in 2011 to the lowest ever recorded, led by a plunge in births to immigrant women after the onset of the Great Recession. A new analysis of government data by the Pew Research Center found that the overall birth rate, which is the annual number of births per 1,000 women in the prime childbearing ages of 15 to 44, was 63.2 in 2011. This is the lowest since 1920, the earliest year for which there are reliable numbers.

From 2007 to 2010, the overall birth rate declined 8 percent. The birth rate for U.S.-born women decreased 6 percent during these years, but the birth rate for foreign-born women plunged 14 percent. The birth rate for Mexican immigrant women fell even more, by 23 percent.

The number of U.S. births fell abruptly from 2007 to 2010----a decrease also led by immigrant women. From 2007 to 2010, the overall number of births declined 7 percent, pulled down by a 13 percent drop in births to immigrants and a relatively modest 5 percent decline in births to U.S.-born women.

The fall in the number of births to immigrant women is explained by behavior (falling birth rates), rather than population composition (change in the number of women of childbearing age), according to a Pew Research analysis. Despite a recent drop in unauthorized immigration from Mexico, the largest source country for U.S. immigrants, the Pew Research analysis found no decline in the number of foreign-born women of childbearing age. Although the data do not explain why women had fewer births after 2007, a previous Pew Research analysis concluded that the recent fertility decline is closely linked to declining economic circumstances. Poverty and unemployment also grew more sharply for Latinos than for non-Latinos after the Great Recession began.

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