All recessions are bad for births. But the most recent economic downturn brought about a major collapse in fertility for Americans of Hispanic descent—one that’s unlikely to ever fully recover, according to a new report from research group IHS Economics.
As a result, the Hispanic population will start to look a lot more like the rest of America: older, more educated, and increasingly monolingual.
Between 2006 and 2013, the Hispanic birth rate plummeted 25 percent. By comparison, the rate for non-Hispanics declined just 5 percent — though the latter was already much lower.
“The decline in fertility [for Hispanics] was not unexpected given the recession but still surprising in the extent of the decline,” IHS Economics managing director James Gillula said in an email.
Combined with the hit immigration took during the recession, Hispanic population growth in the U.S. has slowed to 2.1 percent in 2013 from 3.7% in 2006. Gillula said it’s unlikely we’ll ever see pre-recession levels of Hispanic population growth rates again.
People’s beliefs in their future economic prospects are a principal driver of the rate at which they form households, Gillula says.
Prior to the recession, the fortunes of a huge number of Hispanics in the U.S. were tied to the construction industry — more than 1 in 7 were employed there in 2007.
But between 2007 and 2009, construction jobs for Hispanics declined by 24 percent, or 700,000 jobs.
By 2013, only about 100,000 of those construction jobs had been regained.
“The 2008-09 recession had a more severe impact on Hispanic employment than on the workforce on average,” the IHS report says.
This wasn’t the only factor weighing down birth rates, however.
Like the rest of America’s young adult population, more young Hispanic-Americans began to focus on school, whether by choice or by necessity, pushing back the age at which Hispanic women are likely to have children. This can be seen in, in part, from birth rate changes by age group: among 15- to 19-year-old Hispanic females, there was a 45 percent decline, and a 34 percent drop-off for 20-24 year-olds.
“Pre-recession, there’s a much bigger share of 15-24 year-old [Hispanics] who were having children at home, and now a bigger share attending school,” Gillula said. “It’s not something we anticipated.”
The implications for all this is that Hispanics will become drawn into the same demographic trends affecting the rest of the U.S. Besides increased school enrollment rates (which IHS did not have immediately available data on), the Hispanic population will begin to grey. By 2034, there will be almost as many Hispanics 55 years and older (21.4 percent) as there are Hispanic children (23.4 percent).
Right now, just 11.6 percent of Hispanics are 55 years or older.
And there will be fewer Hispanic households speaking Spanish at home — 71.6 percent by 2034, compared with 76.1 percent today.
Still, the rest of the America will be lucky to have even this subdued growth in Hispanics if it wants to continue to have a noticeably upward-trending population at all. IHS says U.S. population growth is expected to average 0.8 percent through 2034. Little of that will come from non-Hispanics: their ranks will grow by just 0.5 percent through 2019. By 2034 this rate will have declined to 0.3 percent.
Rob covers business, economics and the environment for Fusion. He previously worked at Business Insider. He grew up in Chicago.