In Wake Of Recession, Immigrant Births Plunge The Pew Research Center reports that the U.S. birth rate has hit its lowest level ever, led by a dramatic decline among the foreign-born. The birth rate for Mexican women fell the most, down a stunning 23 percent since the recent recession began in 2007.
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In Wake Of Recession, Immigrant Births Plunge

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In Wake Of Recession, Immigrant Births Plunge

In Wake Of Recession, Immigrant Births Plunge

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And now to a new report about the current birthrate here in the U.S. The Pew Research Center finds it has dropped to its lowest level on record, down eight percent since 2007.

And as NPR's Jennifer Ludden reports, the decline has been most dramatic among immigrant women.

JENNIFER LUDDEN, BYLINE: At La Clinica del Pueblo, in Washington, D.C., the patients at this weekly neonatal clinic are largely foreign-born Hispanics - some in the U.S. legally, some not, many uninsured.


LUDDEN: But the number of pregnancies here has been dropping in recent years.

DR. MADELINE WILKS: We went from about 100, to 90, to 80, another year with 80 and then 70.

LUDDEN: Dr. Madeline Wilks isn't exactly sure why.

WILKS: We've been puzzling over that, actually.


LUDDEN: The drop is all the more striking because immigrants have long propped-up the U.S. birth rate. But today's report by the Pew Research Center finds that while the rate is down generally since the recession, it's fallen twice as much among the foreign-born. Wilks says money is a worry for her clients.

WILKS: We do have people who just can't feed their families if they're not working. And they can't work when they're, you know, with new babies.

LUDDEN: Many immigrants at this clinic hold low-wage jobs with no benefits like paid leave.

WILKS: I also had a patient last year who put her baby up for adoption, and that's just not done in this community. I mean, I've never seen that. But she just really clearly said, I need to give my baby a chance. And it was heartbreaking.

LUDDEN: Her co-worker, Dr. Joshua Kolko, says more women are carefully planning their pregnancies. Long-term contraceptives are popular.

DR. JOSHUA KOLKO: A lot of women are coming to us and asking for some means of contraception, or of timing their pregnancies for when they are in a more stable situation.

LUDDEN: Today's Pew report also breaks down birth rates by national origin.

GRETCHEN LIVINGSTON: We found that for Mexicans, in particular, the declines were really dramatic.

LUDDEN: Senior researcher Gretchen Livingston says the birth rate for Mexican immigrants has fallen a stunning 23 percent since 2007. She finds a strong link between fertility and those who fared worst in the recent recession.

LIVINGSTON: Hispanics were the hardest hit in terms of employment. Their wealth declined by something like 66 percent during the recession. And also important, Hispanics perceive themselves as being extremely hard hit by the recession.

LUDDEN: Alongside this bad economy there's also been an ongoing, if less publicized, crackdown on workplaces that employ those here illegally. The number of deportations rose to a record level last year, nearly 400,000.

Xiomara Corpeno is with the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles.

XIOMARA CORPENO: There is a lot more uncertainty about 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.

LUDDEN: Despite such wrenching decisions, the Pew report projects that the foreign born will continue to drive U.S. population growth in coming decades. It says the vast majority of births will be to immigrants who've arrived just since 2005 and their descendants.

Jennifer Ludden, NPR News, Washington.

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