Posted on September 2, 2010

Which American Racial Group Has the Lowest Fertility?

Razib Khan, Discover, September 2, 2010

{snip} I’ve probed the international differences in total fertility rates before, but what about in the United States? You probably won’t be surprised which segment of the population has the highest fertility, but what about the lowest? {snip} So according to the Census Bureau the TFR’s in 2008 were:

2.09–All races

1.84–Non-Hispanic white

2.11–Non-Hispanic black

1.84–American Indian, Native Alaskan

2.06–Asian & Pacific Islander


Yes, Native Americans have the same TFR as non-Hispanic whites! Total surprise to me. The profile in relation to within wedlock and out-of-wedlock differs between the groups a fair amount. Here are the percents born to unmarried mothers:

40.6%–All races

28.6%–Non-Hispanic white

72.3%–Non-Hispanic black

65.8%–American Indian, Native Alaskan

16.9%–Asian & Pacific Islander


So Native Americans combine low total fertility with a high proportion of out-of-wedlock births. I actually found births per 1,000 trend lines broken down by Hispanic ethnic group. There’s an interesting pattern [below].

As you can see, the “high Hispanic fertility rate” is really the high Mexican American fertility rate. Cuban Americans have fertility below non-Hispanic whites (Cuba’s TFR is 1.6, though Cuban Americans are highly unrepresentative of Cuba demographically and culturally somewhat isolated from the island), and Puerto Ricans seem to track black Americans. The latter aligns with the sociology I’ve seen that indicates American Puerto Ricans share many norms and vital stats with the blacks next to whom they settled in Manhattan (Puerto Ricans in Puerto Rico have a TFR which is the same as non-Hispanic whites). Interestingly, the Native and non-Hispanic white fertility has only converged in the last generation or so. One issue to consider is that there’s been a large increase in the number of Americans identifying as Native American since the 1980s, so this may have altered the fertility simply because of a change in the demographic composition of those who identify as Native American. Another point is that Mexican Americans have a TFR which is much higher than in Mexico, which is now around ~2 (though if you look up the data, you’ll see some underdeveloped southern Mexican states are around ~3).