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Immigrants Keep U.S. Birth Rates from Dropping


In this 2015 photo, in Sullivan City, Texas, a woman who is in the country illegally walks with her two-year-old daughter who was born in the in the United State but was denied a birth certificate.(AP Photo/Eric Gay)

In the United States, immigrants are keeping birth rates from dropping.

That information comes from a new study. The Pew Research Center, an independent research group, reported the finding.

According to the study, U.S.-born women gave birth to 3.10 babies in 2014. That is down from the 3.46 million born in 1970.

Since that year, births to immigrant women have jumped by more than 300 percent. It reached 901,000 births in 2014.

More Babies Born to Asian Immigrants

Pew’s researchers say more than half of the foreign-born mothers are from nine countries and one U.S. territory. Those countries include Mexico, China, India, El Salvador, Guatemala, and the Philippines. Also on the list are Honduras, Vietnam, Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico.

Asian immigrants now represent 22 percent of U.S. births by foreign women, up from 16 percent in 2010, the Pew study found.

It is not just that there are more immigrant women living in the United States. Foreign-born women are having more children than U.S.-born women, Pew said.

In 2014, there were 58.3 births for every 1,000 U.S.-born women of childbearing age. The number is 84.2 per 1,000 foreign-born women.

Birth Rates Down Generally

Birth rates for both U.S.-born and foreign-born women are down since 1970. But the 2014 rate for foreign-born women is similar to the rate for U.S.-born women 40 years ago, Pew said.

The drop in total fertility rates has been sharp since the economic recession of 2008, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The term total fertility rates mean how many children the average woman will have in her lifetime.

Among immigrant women, the fertility rate dropped from 2.7 in 2008 to 2.2 in 2014, the Census Bureau said. For American-born women, the rate dropped from 2.1 to 1.8.

According to the Pew report, 51 percent of foreign-born mothers spent at least 11 years in the United States before having a baby. Just nine percent had arrived less than two years earlier, it said.

The report found that 275,000 babies were born to undocumented immigrants in 2014.

William Frey is with the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. If it were not for immigrants, Frey said, the U.S. birth rate would be much lower and that could result in shortages of workers.

“My view is that we actually need more young people in this country and that immigrants and their children are going to fill that need,” Frey said.

Steven Camarota is director of research for the Center for Immigration Studies in Washington. The center supports calls to limit immigration.

Camarota said it is true immigrants are generally young. That means they can fill jobs and help support programs that provide health and retirement assistance for older Americans.

Those retirement programs are projected to run short of money in coming years as more Americans grow older and leave the workforce.

But Camarota said immigrants also generally earn less money than native-born Americans and, as a result, use more social welfare programs. That takes tax money away from other services, he said.

He added that lower birth rates for immigrants are offset by higher yearly immigration totals.

Fewer Unmarried Women Having Babies

The Pew Research Center report also reported a drop in the percentage of births to unmarried foreign-born mothers. It is down from 37 percent in 2008 to 33 percent in 2014.

At the same time, the rate has held steady for U.S.-born women, Pew reported. It now stands at 42 percent.

I’m Bruce Alpert.

Bruce Alpert reported on this story for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

childbearing - adj. the age in which women can give birth

actually - adv. used to refer to what is true or real

welfare - adj. a government program for poor or unemployed people that helps pay for their food, housing, medical costs

accordingadv. as stated by or in

steadyadj. unchanged; direct or sure in movement

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