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"Economist Tom Rex of the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University said the decline in Arizona has been “more significant’’ than the rest of the nation."

Arizona women just aren’t having as many babies as they used to.

George Hammond, the director of the Economic and Business Research Center at the University of Arizona’s Eller College of Management, said Arizona births rose from 37,591 in 1970 to a high of 102,687 in 2007. 

But since then there been a sharp decline, with the number pegged at less than 81,000 last year.

But Hammond’s analysis of the data also discovered that while birth rates among non-Hispanic women dropped 14 percent in the decade following 2007, the decline among Hispanics was three times greater.

All this comes as Arizona is close to the point where the only way the state will continue to grow is if people keep moving here: The net difference between births and deaths currently is only about 20,000 a year in a state of more than 7.1 million.

Hammond warns that dependence on in-migration is risky and could change sharply, as it did during the recession when virtually no one moved into Arizona. That, in turn, would mean that lower birth rates – especially the drop among Hispanic women – would have a ripple effect, including fewer students in public schools, community colleges and state universities.

That also has implications for retailers, who Hammond said won’t find quite the demand for youth-oriented products.

Hammond isn’t the only one who has been looking at the Hispanic birth rate.

Economist Tom Rex of the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University said the decline in Arizona has been “more significant’’ than the rest of the nation. And the picture is even more complex than that.

“The Hispanic birth rate in Arizona prior to the last recession was unusually high,’’ Rex said, noting that Hispanic women in Arizona were giving birth at a higher rate than even women in Mexico.

 Rex said he expects Hispanic birth rates in Arizona and the rest of the nation to continue to fall, though he said the non-Hispanic birth rates –  about 38 births per 1,000 women of childbearing age in 2017 – are unlikely to change.

All that leaves the question of why the sharp change in Hispanic birth rates.

Hammond blames much of it on the “economic shock’’ of the Great Recession.

“A lot of Hispanics left the state,’’ he said. Hammond said there was a sharp drop in things like construction employment which had employed a lot of Hispanic – and, in fact, many undocumented – workers.

Moreover, he said, “SB 1070 made Hispanics feel less welcome here.”

“There are suggestions that a lot of those Hispanics moved to Texas and to other states to pursue jobs in mining, other sectors that were growing more rapidly,’’ Hammond said.

“Birth rates and educational attainment are inversely related,’’ Rex said. Put simply, those with less education tend to have more children.

That, in turn, fits into what Hammond said is the current lower birth rate among Hispanics now than in the years before the recession, when many Hispanics here were new arrivals from Mexico.

“They’re kind of the second-generation and they’re fully assimilated,’’ he said of the current Hispanic population, meaning they’re seeing the world in a way similar to the non-Hispanic population among whom the birth rate is also declining.

Birth rates in Arizona

Here are birth rates for selected years in Arizona, based on babies per 1,000 women of childbearing age.

Year        Hispanic birth rate        Non-Hispanic

birth rate

1990               85.2                            54.0

1995               79.3                            44.3

2000               79.7                            43.5

2005               79.1                            42.7

2010               54.2                            41.2

2017              45.5                             38.1

Source: Economic Business Research Center, Eller

College of Management, University of Arizona

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