- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Foreign-born women have higher fertility rates in the United States compared with women from the same countries back home, according to a new report.

On average, women from the top 10 immigrant-sending countries have 2.9 children here in the United States, compared with 2.3 children per woman in their home countries — a 23 percent difference, said Steve Camarota, research director for the Center for Immigration Studies, who wrote the report.

He said the difference is particularly true of Mexico, which accounts for 40 percent of U.S. immigrants. Mexican women in the United States have an average of 3.5 children, compared with 2.4 children for women in Mexico.

Of the top 10 countries, women from seven have higher birth rates in the United States than women in their home countries. The exceptions are the Philippines, Vietnam and India.

The other nations with higher birth rates are Canada, China, Cuba, El Salvador, South Korea and the United Kingdom.

Mr. Camarota said Indians and Vietnamese in the United States tend to have a higher education level though, which usually translates to lower fertility. In this case, adjusting for education levels, he found Vietnamese and Indian women have similar fertility rates in the United States and at home, though the differences persisted among Filipino women.

He based his U.S. data on findings from the 2002 American Community Survey.

The report also says female illegal aliens average 3.1 children, while female legal immigrants average 2.6. Mr. Camarota said the difference is due mainly to their education level and cultural values.

Cecilia Munoz, vice president for research and policy at the National Council of La Raza, said the issue is timing.

“What’s happening demographically is immigrants tend to come to the United States in their best working years, which also happen to be their prime childbearing years,” she said. “It’s about when they come. If you’re comparing apples to apples, fertility rates tend to be slightly higher, but not hugely so.”

Yesterday’s report was the second from the center dealing with immigrant births. In July, the center released a study that found nearly a quarter of all births in the country in 2002 were to immigrants. And 42 percent of those, amounting to 383,000 births, were to illegal aliens.

Taken together, Mr. Camarota said the birth statistics mean any guest-worker program allowing illegal aliens to temporarily remain in the United States would undermine the program’s goal of having them return home.

“The birth of these children tends to make their presence permanent,” he said.

But Ms. Munoz said Mr. Camarota’s statistics actually support a guest-worker program that would allow aliens to come and go more easily. She said tougher enforcement has meant aliens can no longer cross the border easily, so when they come they are more likely to stay illegally.

She also questioned the motives of Center for Immigration Studies, which advocates for stricter immigration limits and enforcement.

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