NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


December 8, 2004

Latina women are choosing to have smaller families, in some cases resisting the social pressures that shaped the Hispanic tradition of big families, say observers.

Latinos became the country's largest minority partly because they had the highest fertility rate among the major ethnic groups. But that fertility rate is on the decline as more women work at a younger age, achieve higher levels of education and postpone marriage, all of which affects when they will give birth and how often, say observers:

  • Nationally, the fertility rates for Hispanic women have fallen from 2.9 percent in the early 1990s to 2.7 in 2002.
  • In California, fertility rates have dropped from 3.4 children per woman in 1990 to 2.6 in 2003, causing demographers to scale back population projections for 2040 by nearly 7 million people.

Demographers say the decline is significant because of the size of the Latino population -- about 40 million -- and the implications for long-term needs tied to population growth. In California, for example, the increase in the school-age population will not be as striking as was anticipated, say some observers.

Assimilation into the American lifestyle is fueling this trend. According to the Public Policy Institute of California, American-born Hispanics have a much lower fertility rate (2.2) than that of immigrant Hispanics (3.1) in the state.

Source: Mireya Navarro, "For Younger Latinas, a Shift to Smaller Families," New York Times, December 5, 2004.

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