Stats show Hispanics in state have 1 in 5 babies
High birthrates among Hispanic women in Washington and elsewhere; low birthrates among whites; and high rates of immigration overall help explain recent U.S. Census projections that by midcentury, nonwhites will be the nation's majority.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Hispanics, a young, fast-growing segment of the population, produce one in every five babies in Washington state, U.S. Census and state health statistics show.
In fact, the 2006 birthrate among Latinas — 103 babies for every 1,000 women — was nearly twice what it was for every other group of women when considered by race and ethnicity in the state.
It's an ongoing trend witnessed by nearly every state, and when combined with high rates of immigration and lower birthrates among whites, helps explain recent U.S. Census projections that by midcentury, nonwhites will be the nation's majority.
"Really, this is the continuing story of our immigrant country," said Hilary Stern, executive director of Casa Latina, an advocacy group. The influx of Europeans in the early part of the last century has been followed by an influx of people from elsewhere in the world, she said.
"And just like those before them, these new immigrants will give us the same gifts of hard work, innovation, determination to make a better life and all the cultural riches, the food, the music," Stern said.
By 2030, minorities will comprise more than half of all children nationwide — most of them Hispanic.
Leon Donahue, secretary of Washingtonians for Immigration Reform, said his concern is not so much about whites no longer being in the majority as it is about the continued high rates of immigration.
"We've got to stop this immigration chain: Once someone comes, they bring their 400 relatives," he said.
The number of legal immigrants allowed into the U.S. has exceeded 1 million in each of the past three years; 20 years ago, it was about half that.
"We've created a monster," Donahue said. "The environment can't take it. We've only so much land, and the country is not growing in size."
The statistics come from three sources: the state Department of Health's Center for Health Statistics for 2006; the 2006 American Community Survey; and a census study out this week called Fertility of American Women: 2006.
The fertility study shows that among women 15 to 50, foreign-born women had a birthrate far higher than that of the native-born — 71 births per 1,000 women compared to 52. The average Hispanic woman, the study said, will end her childbearing years with an average of 2.3 children, more than white, black and Asian women.
Immigration and high birthrates by minorities also will change the look of Washington. The state's Office of Financial Management predicts the minority population could reach 32 percent of the state's overall population by 2030, up from an estimated 23 percent now.
Hispanics will number more than 1 million in this state, double their current population levels.
Uriel Iñiguez, director of the Commission on Hispanic Affairs, said the result of all this growth is reflected in areas such as school enrollment, which shows 15 percent of all K-12 students in the state are Latino.
But he said many of those students are dropping out — at a rate of about 50 percent — feeling disconnected in a system that doesn't adequately meet their needs.
The Legislature this year appropriated $150,000 for the University of Washington to study the achievement gap between Hispanics and other students and develop a plan to close it.
Iñiguez called education the "great equalizer" and said with Latinos representing an increasingly large segment of the population, the state needs to act now to ensure they become a contributing segment of its work force, too.
But, he said, "Our curriculum hasn't changed; the system of educators, administrators, the entire culture hasn't changed to reflect the changing demographics since a time back when 5 percent of students were ethnic minorities.
"So these students think school is not for them. They say, 'I don't see myself in this.' "
He said that while some districts are doing a fair job, overall "the system discourages them from continuing their education and the state is missing out on this vital human resource."
Lornet Turnbull: 206-464-2420 or email@example.com
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