ATLANTA—Yolanda Lucena removes seeds from dark red chile peppers, her 5-year-old son, Ignacio, rushes into their home. He brandishes the daily behavior sheet, which has a blue circle for excellent behavior.
Newly arriving Hispanics have long outpaced the fertility rates of other ethnic groups, helping them become the country’s largest minority. In recent years, however, the typical Hispanic family is shrinking—fast. The change emerges as more established Hispanics resist some of the social and religious pressures of their homelands.
They are carving a new way of life here—one characterized by fewer children.
“Only her,” Alicia Jimenez, a stay-at-home mom, said about her 19-month-old daughter, Noemi Aylin, dressed in a pink velour pantsuit. They were in the waiting room at the Norcross, Ga.-based prenatal and pediatric clinic La Clínica de la Mamá. “We want to be able to support her well.”
Ed Cota, chief executive officer of La Clínica de la Mamá, has a local radio program called “El Doctor Está en Casa,” or “The Doctor’s in the House.” He estimates that a third of the questions he receives are related to birth control.
Bigger than average
Hispanics still have bigger families on average, with a national average of 3.87 people per Hispanic family. The national average for all families is 3.19.
And in Georgia, the average Hispanic family size is larger than other states with more established Hispanic immigrant populations, such as California. In fact, Georgia ranks fourth in the country for the largest Hispanic family size—4.14 people on average, according to an Atlanta Journal-Constitution analysis of U.S. Census Bureau figures.
Still, many experts believe that as second-generation Hispanics in Georgia plan their families, they will be more likely to keep their family size small as they wrestle with many of the challenges of the American lifestyle: dual-income households, the high cost of day care and the drive for a financially comfortable life. Many postpone marriage until they are well into their 20s, and they are more educated.
University of Georgia demographer Douglas C. Bachtel expects the birthrate in Georgia to slip in coming years, following the trends in California and Florida. In California, demographers have dialed down their population estimates for 2040 by nearly 7 million, pointing to the continuing drop in the fertility rate among Hispanics, according to the California Department of Finance’s Demographic Research Unit. The fertility rate is now 2.6 children per woman in 2003, down from 3.4 children in 1990. (Georgia did not track birthrates based on race until 2000.) The shift also reflects a slowing fertility rate in Mexico, where the country’s average is now less than three children per family.