For years, the Edward Roybal Comprehensive Health Center in the heart of one of the country’s largest communities of Mexican immigrants in East Los Angeles has been the home of prenatal care for the record high Latino birth rate.
But in recent years officials there began seeing a noticeable drop in pregnancies among immigrant women – a decline apparently driven by the recession and which has been symptomatic of a national decline in births among immigrants.
This week, that drop became official as the Pew Research Center reported that the birth rate for foreign-born women plunged an unprecedented 14 percent between 2007 and 2010 compared with a 6 percent decline for U.S.-born women.
The Latino birth rate plummeted 19 percent for Hispanic immigrants during that period.
“Latinos have been hit particularly hard by the recession, and the downturn in births is especially sharp for immigrants,” said D’Vera Cohn, co-author of the Pew study that is based on analysis of data from the Census Bureau and the National Center for Health Statistics.
Pew found the birth rate for Mexican immigrants, the largest group of Latinos, has fallen 23 percent since 2007.
“Hispanics were the hardest hit in terms of employment,” says Pew senior researcher Gretchen Livingston. “Their wealth declined by something like 66 percent during the recession.”
Livingston also said that “Hispanics perceive themselves as being extremely hard hit by the recession.”
Marta Estrada, 32, who immigrated to Los Angeles from Mexico in 2004, says her plans for expanding her family was affected by the recession in which her husband lost his construction job.
“He has been working only part-time here and there since 2009 when we had our second child,” says Estrada. “We had hoped to have at least two more children, but how can anyone afford to bring any more children into the world in these conditions?
“I have been on birth control for three years. We’re Catholics, and that’s against our religion. But we just can’t have any more children until my husband is working regularly again.
“We pray that God will forgive us.”
A counselor at the Roybal Center, who was not authorized to speak on the record, said Estrada typified many of the women who come to the clinic.
“It seems that I was rarely counseling women on birth control and on planning their families,” she said. “Now about half the women I counsel want to talk about birth control and, in some cases, about dealing with the guilt some feel at going against what the church has historically taught them.”
US, Latino birth rate is down
According to the Pew report, the U.S. birth rate has also been affected by a slowdown in immigration.
The level of immigration from Mexico leveled off in 2010 to a zero increase as Mexicans returned to Mexico in such numbers as to offset those immigrating to the U.S.
Among the Pew study’s other findings:
- Immigrant women accounted for 33 percent of births to women 35 and older in 2010.
- Teenagers accounted for more than twice the number of births to U.S.-born mothers, 11 percent in 2010, than to immigrants, 5 percent.
- Two thirds of births to U.S.-born women in 2010 were to white mothers, while over half of births to foreign-born women were to Latinas.
- Another factor that has impacted the birth rate among illegal immigrants is the family trauma caused by deportations, which rose to a record high 400,000 in 2011
“There is a lot more uncertainty,” says Xiomara Corpeno of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles.
“Like, well, ‘We’re together, we have this family, we’d love to expand it, but we don’t know if we’re going to be here tomorrow.’”
Originally published as "Immigrant, Latino Birth Rates Plunge To New Lows," by Voxxi.