Friday, January 4, 2013

Hispanic Birth Rates Still High | Casey's Last Word

Newspapers here and around the country this week flashed the news as if it were startling.

The New York Times put it on the front page Monday: “Hispanic Pregnancies Fall in U.S. as Women Choose Smaller Families.”

Some Americans would see that as good news, and not just those who have hoisted Tea Party signs demanding to “take our country back.”

America has always had a love/hate relationship with Lady Liberty and her welcome mat for huddled masses.

For three centuries immigrants have labored to build this nation as the grandsons and granddaughters of earlier immigrants worried that its purity was being adulterated.

Still, the numbers are startling.

Between 2007 and 2010, Mexican-American women and women who immigrated from Mexico cut their birth rate by 26 percent.

Among Bexar County Hispanic women, the numbers are at least as impressive.

According to data compiled by the Metropolitan Health District, Hispanic women in Bexar county between the ages of 20 and 24 – traditionally the age group with the highest birth rate – have cut their birth rate by an astounding 46 percent from 2007 to 2011.

The age groups on either side have shown impressive cuts since 2007 as well: Girls from 15-19 down by 26 percent and women 25-29 down by 20 percent.

Both John Berlanga, who compiles these numbers for the Metropolitan Health District, and Steve Murdock, the former Texas state demographer who moved from UTSA to Rice University, agree that a major factor is the economy.

But they wonder how much is due to assimilation, with Hispanics edging toward the lower birth rates of Anglos and blacks.

But even if rates don’t rebound after the recession, any political leaders who think the numbers mean they don’t need to court Hispanics need to look closer.

The birthrate among Hispanics may be dropping, but it is still well above that of non-Hispanics.

Nationally, says Murdock, the major non-Hispanic groups are not at the replacement level of 2.1 children per woman in her lifetime.

Hispanics, he said are at about 2.6, down from 3.1 a decade ago.

Here in Bexar County in 2011, while the birth rate among 15-44-year-old Hispanic women may be lower than in the past, it is still considerably higher than among non-Hispanic women.

Stick with me on these numbers.

Hispanic women this past year gave birth at a rate of 71 babies per 1,000 women aged 15-44.

That’s down from 74 the year before.

But Anglo women had 59 per thousand, and blacks 56 per thousand.

In total, Hispanic women in Bexar County had 16,629 babies last year.

Anglo women had only 6,159 and blacks just 1,627.

If you are Anglo and these numbers scare you, I’d recommend more faith in America.

This is a country that has assimilated every stripe of immigrant that has washed up on our shores – even the Irish!

Hispanics, contrary to the belief of many, are no different.

Let me tell you a brief story.

About a dozen years ago I attended a San Antonio Independent School district board meeting.

The agenda included a presentation on the then 4-year-old Spanish immersion program at Bonham Elementary in the King William neighborhood.

An Anglo 4th-grade boy, neither of whose parents spoke any Spanish, got up and conversed with the board members totally in Spanish.

He even cracked jokes with the Hispanic board president.

An Hispanic mother praised the program from another angle.

“My son can finally talk to his grandmother,” she said gratefully.

As we immigrant sons and daughters say in America, is this a great country or what?

And that’s it for Texas Week. See you next time.

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