Ivonne Gonzalez is expecting her second baby March 8. The Simi Valley software engineer and her husband, Hugo, are already chasing one curly-haired toddler, Mikel, around the house.
The Gonzalez family is growing in a stable home, with two incomes and two completed educations, exactly as they planned.
"I have a master's degree in computer science," said Ivonne Gonzalez, 33. "I thought, 'I'll wait until everything is in place before I have my family.' "
She was born in Mexico and came to the United States when she was 12. Both of her parents had 10 siblings, but she and her husband decided a smaller family at the right time was the right choice for them.
Choice and circumstance may explain the results of a recently released study from the Pew Hispanic Center showing that both immigrant and native-born Latinas in the United States had steeper birthrate declines than any other demographic group from 2007 to 2010.
The biggest reason for the drop was likely the recession, but according to Gretchen Livingston, a Pew researcher and lead author of the study, there may be other circumstances at play, too.
"With increased (job) participation for women and higher levels of education, it was already declining before the recession," Livingston said.
The term "Latinas" covers women with roots in any of the Latin American countries, but the greatest birthrate decline was among Mexican-American women and immigrants from Mexico -- a 25.7 percent drop, greater than non-Hispanic whites, blacks and Asians.
"Our research suggests Hispanics were particularly hard hit by this (economic) trend," Livingston said. "The areas that had the largest (economic) decline were the ones that had the largest fertility decline, based on a number of economic indicators such as per-capita income, housing prices and unemployment."
States that did not fare so poorly during the recession, such as North Dakota, had little or no fertility declines. Big declines in fertility were found in states like Arizona and California, which were hit hard by the recession, researchers said.
Immigrant mothers led the drop, with about 63 births per 1,000 women ages 15 to 44 in 2011. The Pew study showed birthrates among Hispanics hit a 20-year low in 2011.
"Fertility is also declining in the source countries," Livingston said. "In Mexico, fertility has declined really rapidly. In 1960, women averaged more than seven children each. Now, it's 2.4 children."
Selfa Saucedo, public health program coordinator for the Ventura County Public Health Department, said there has been a push in Mexico to encourage smaller families.
"There are countrywide campaigns to rein in family size," Saucedo said. "In Mexico the campaign has been 'Smaller families live better.' "
'More hands to help out'
Jazmin Gomez, 28, of Santa Paula, said her mother came to the United States from Mexico, then gave birth to Gomez and her two siblings.
"I asked my mom why she didn't have a million kids," Gomez said. "She said she had to help raise all her brothers and sisters. She said that coming here, she was able to have her freedom."
Gomez has three children, the most recent addition being Elyse, 7 months old.
Large families are common in less industrial, more agrarian societies all over the world, according to Ena Valladarez, director of research for California Latinas for Reproductive Justice in Los Angeles.
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