Now the sociological academics have gotten around to quantifying that which I could have told them years ago. Hispanic women, mirroring other ethnic groups, are having less children. A lot less. This development is part of a larger wave of dwindling birthrates across the entire United States’ female spectrum which in 2011 saw the combined birthrate hit a record low of 63 births per thousand women aged 15-44.
The decline in birthrates was steepest among Mexican-American women and women who immigrated from Mexico, at 25.7 percent. This has reversed a trend in which immigrant mothers accounted for a rising share of births in the United States, according to a recent report by the Pew Research Center. In 2010, birthrates among all Hispanics reached their lowest level in 20 years, the center found.
The sudden drop-off, which coincided with the onset of the recession, suggests that attitudes have changed since the days when older generations of Latinos prized large families and more closely followed Roman Catholic teachings, which forbid artificial contraception.
Interviews with young Latinas, as well as reproductive health experts, show that the reasons for deciding to have fewer children are many, involving greater access to information about contraceptives and women’s health, as well as higher education.
I’ve witnessed this cultural evolution personally. The writer infers that the plunge in Hispanic birthrates is attributable to the recession of 2008, which is partially accurate. However, my personal observations are that the size of the typical Mexican family has been steadily shrinking for at least 20 years, probably longer. Mexican families from my parent’s generation were likely to have the archetypal large brood. For instance, my father had about 7 siblings, and even the ensuing generations tended to have 4, 5, or more children. My mother only had 2 siblings, but her family lived in the United States and my grandparent’s childbearing years were dampened by the doom of the Great Depression when all birthrates declined.
Among my Mexican-born relatives, family size has likewise shrunk. During the 70s, 3 or 4 children was the norm, but as Westernization, ie, Americanization, began seeping into Mexico’s geo-cultural landscape like raw sewage, this number was reduced to about 2 children by the 80s and 90s. Today, I’m seeing more single-child Mexican families than ever. A family which chose to have “only” 3 children a few decades ago might be considered “unusual” but might, today, be considered the same for completely different reasons. In 2012, having 3 children is “pushing the envelope” for most Mexican-American families.
Low birthrates, a standard for most Americans by now, has been slow to take root in the lagging Hispanic population. Their reluctance to reduce family size seemed frozen in place by the cultural trademarks of machismo and Catholicism. Indeed, the surprising reduction of Mexican birthrates can finally inform us what we know of all women spanning the range of developed nations. They are having fewer children.
Theories abound in order to explain the phenomena. Many of them are very legitimate in their explanations of the causes of women’s childbearing habits. Low birthrates are the sum result of a concoction of many reasons. Many cultural and economic ingredients have been sifted into the collective stew of modern procreation that have given it its minimalist nature we now witness. Nevertheless, I believe all these causes, when folded into a massive assemblage of cultural phenomena, illustrate one underlying reason that I believe aptly explains the modern birthrate: lack of selflessness.
Selflessness is that peculiarly human trait which allowed the human race to progress collectively and efficiently; it allowed members to place the needs of the group above their own when the situation required. The Industrial Age, and all subsequent technological advances, have engendered a destructive human self-conception of inflated value and importance that is inordinately self-preserving at the expense of selflessness. Raising children is difficult, self-sacrificial work and a good parent commits to relinquishing grandiose pathways of inflated self-image in order to bestow their offspring with the most nurturing emotional environment possible. Modern man is impatient and preoccupied with the instant feedback of digitized self-gratification and emotional entitlement. He is unwilling to sacrifice these shallow notions for children, but to his credit, he recognizes this and has resisted perpetuating archaic notions of extensive family formations. Many groups clung to the large family dynamic in the face of evolving cultural trends but even they could hold out no longer.
The new age of selfishness treats children as a burden and material possession; we brag about children and treat them as well-trained robots. They reflect our status.
The call of materialism and status have become our new family.