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Press Release · August 27, 2001

California’s Future Population Growth May Be Less Than Expected, Study Finds

SAN FRANCISCO, California, August 27, 2001 – U.S.-born children of immigrants will likely have substantially lower birth rates than their parents, and this birth pattern could significantly lower population growth projections for the state, according to a new study released today by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC).

The study, New Trends in Newborns: Fertility Rates and Patterns in California, found that during the amnesty-driven immigration boom of the late 1980s and early 1990s, almost half of all births in the state were to foreign-born mothers. Birth rates for Hispanics were particularly high, with an average of 3.5 children per woman, compared to an average of 2.0 children for African-American and Asian and Pacific Islander women, and 1.5 children for non-Hispanic white women.

Although the high birth rate among Hispanic immigrants drove much of the state’s population growth during this time, the study finds little evidence that the U.S.-born children of these immigrants will give birth at the same elevated rates. Birth rates for U.S.-born Hispanics are much lower than for immigrant Hispanics, with U.S.-born Hispanics averaging only 2.5 children per woman compared to 4.0 for foreign-born Hispanics.

“If these fertility patterns hold in the future, we may not see the levels of population growth that many expect,” says PPIC research fellow Hans Johnson, who co-authored the study with PPIC research fellow Laura Hill, and Mary Heim, Chief of the Demographic Research Unit at the California Department of Finance. “As the daughters and granddaughters of immigrants from the late 1980s and early 1990s account for an increasing share of the state’s women of childbearing-age, there will likely be declines in overall birth rates in California.” The authors note that these new findings will inform future population projections by the state.

Other key findings:

  • Teen birth rates fell in the mid to late 1990s for every ethnic group, after rising throughout the 1980s. Declines among Hispanic teens have been less pronounced, and these youth now have higher birth rates than any other group.
  • Birth rates among women aged 40 to 44 rose substantially throughout the 1980s and 1990s – particularly among U.S.-born white and Asian and Pacific Islander women.

The Public Policy Institute of California is a private, nonprofit organization dedicated to objective, nonpartisan research on economic, social, and political issues that affect the lives of Californians. The Institute was established in 1994 with an endowment from William R. Hewlett.