Posted on September 21, 2011

Hispanic Birthrate Dips in Arizona

Ronald J. Hansen, The Voice of Tucson, September 1, 2011

Hispanic women in Arizona are having children at a significantly lower rate than in past decades, which could slow overall population growth if the trend continues, according to new state and federal data.

Hispanic birthrates and net migration into the state have contributed heavily to the state’s rapid population growth. The decline in the Hispanic birthrate from 2000 to 2010, coupled with an overall drop, already has demographers contemplating scaled-back projections for the state’s future population. Those projections are used for planning an array of services from schools to roads and housing.

From roughly 2000 to 2010, total fertility rates for Hispanic women declined from 3.0 births per woman to 2.4, according to the Arizona State Demographer’s Office. The drop was most pronounced for Hispanic women younger than 20 years old. Birthrates for Hispanic women 35 years and older increased slightly but are a relatively small portion of total births.


Experts cite various reasons for the decline.

Carlos Vlez-Ibez, director of the School of Transborder Studies at Arizona State University, said the trend is an extension of a pattern that began in Mexico and is likely occurring in other U.S. states. As more Mexicans moved from the rural areas to cities and became more educated, they tended to have fewer children and the birth rate declined. Most Hispanics in Arizona are of Mexican descent.


Between 1960 and 1965, there were 6.75 births per Mexican woman, according to data from the United Nations. By the 1990-95 period, that had fallen to 3.19, the U.N. reports.

Assimilation also could be a factor as birthrates for Hispanics with multiple generations in the U.S. are beginning to mirror those of the country as a whole.

But Vlez-Ibez rejects the idea that assimilation alone explains the decline. He said that as in other countries like Mexico, as Hispanics become more educated and more affluent and as divorce rates creep up, their long-term birthrates will keep falling.

“In 20 to 25 years, you’ll have replacement rate (births), and that’s about it,” Vlez-Ibez said.

Arizona averaged more than 2 percent annual growth in the past decade. About 40 percent of it was driven by natural changes from births and deaths. The remaining 60 percent was affected by net migration from other states and nations. {snip}


Births among non-Hispanic women under 20 also declined in 2010, contributing to the overall decline in birthrates. The birthrate for all Arizona women fell from about 2.4 per woman in 2000 to 2.1 in 2010.

The declining birthrates in Arizona are similar to changes playing out nationwide. The 2010 census showed that population gains over the decade were the smallest since the Great Depression. Many demographers suspect the economic downturn was a key factor, with families postponing or limiting having children for financial reasons.

Census reports show the national birthrate for Hispanic women had been lower than in Arizona but was drifting higher near the end of the past decade even as Arizona’s birthrate was likely flat or falling.