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National Data | Hispanics, Blacks Driving Baby Boomlet
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January 23, 2008, 04:00 AM
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"For the first time in 35 years, the U.S. fertility rate has climbed high enough to sustain a stable population, solidifying the nation`s unique status among industrialized countries." U.S. Fertility Rate Hits 35-Year High, Stabilizing Population, By Rob Stein, Washington Post, December 21, 2007

Thus begins a Washington Post article celebrating news that our women are finally having enough babies to forestall a population decline.

The year 2006 saw more babies born here than in any year since 1961 and the largest increase in births since 1989. [Centers for Disease Control, National Vital Statistics Reports, "Births: Preliminary Data for 2006," December 5, 2007. PDF ]

More importantly, the birth spike pushed the total fertility rate—the expected number of babies born to women over their lifetime - to 2.1, according to the Census Bureau. That figure is considered the "replacement rate"—the rate at which a generation can exactly replace itself.

Why the baby pop? The so-called experts are not without ideas.

America is an increasingly religious country, and fundamentalist religious values encourage childbearing. (One piece of evidence: Parents who  chose biblical names for their children have much larger families than those that chose secular names, after adjusting for income and other factors.)

U.S. working mothers face less stigma and more support, compared to their counterparts in other advanced countries. The proliferation of part-time jobs, cyber commuting, flextime—not to mention fast food, microwaves, and 24 hour supermarkets—helps too.

Other possibilities: A decline in safe sex and stricter rules governing abortions in some states. [Against the Trend, U.S. Births Way Up, By Mike Stobbe, AP, January 16, 2008]

And (ahem) immigration?  The Post is skeptical:

"Some of the increase is explained by immigration. Hispanics have the highest fertility rate…….But Hispanics do not represent enough of the population to fully explain the trend, and the fertility rate of U.S. whites is still higher than that of other developed countries."

Oh, really?

At 15 percent of the U.S. population, Hispanics may seem to "not represent enough of the population" to explain national fertility trends. But this ignores their wildly disproportionate role in the baby boomlet.

In 2006 127,647 more babies were born in the U.S. than in 2005. Here is the birth spike distributed by the mother`s race and ethnicity:  (Table 1.)

Total births: +127,647 (100 percent of the increase)
Hispanic births +53,546 (42 percent of the increase)
non Hispanic black births +33,461 (26 percent of the increase)
non Hispanic white births +30,065 (24 percent of the increase)
Asian and other births +10,575 (8 percent of the increase)

The Hispanic share of the birth spike (42 percent) is nearly three-times their population share (15 percent). "Anchor babies" are certainly a factor, but the birth data doesn`t report the mother`s citizenship status—yet another example of the systematic of government to ask possibly embarrassing questions about our post-1965 immigration disaster.

Meanwhile, non-Hispanic whites (two-thirds of the population) accounted for just 24 percent of 2006`s birth pop.

As for white women, their fertility rate rose in 2006 and is higher than their European counterparts. But they are still having babies at well below the replacement rate—and increasingly below the rates of U.S. blacks and Hispanics:

The graphic shows rather dramatic fluctuations in minority fertility—down in the 1990s, rising (especially for Hispanics) since 2000. Black fertility crossed above the 2.1 rate mark in 2006—the first time since 2001.

By comparison, white fertility has barely budged.

Whites are the only group with chronically below replacement fertility over the past two decades.

A few months ago we predicted minorities would account for half of all U.S. births by 2011 and more than 60 percent by 2021.

Those dates are already in play.

Edwin S. Rubenstein (email him) is President of ESR Research Economic Consultants in Indianapolis.