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December 1, 2012

U.S. birth rate plummets to its lowest level since 1920

(Continued)

WASHINGTON —

And while the Hispanic birth rate may never return to its highest levels, immigrants who have babies will likely continue to boost overall fertility rates, said Frey, who saw the current decline as a "short-term blip." Immigrants from Asia, he said, continue to move to the United States, though their birth rates are not likely to approach that of Hispanic immigrants at their peak.

The recent birth rate decline among Latino women may also be related to enhanced access to emergency contraception and better sex education in recent years, said Kimberly Inez McGuire, a senior policy analyst at the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, based in New York.

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At Mary's Center, an organization in Washington that provides social services to low-income women, the waiting room on a recent morning was filled with immigrants, many with swollen bellies. But not all were planning large families.

Elsa Mendez, 22, a single woman from Guatemala who lives in Washington, is due to give birth to her first child in December, but she said after this one she plans to go on birth control because she wants a better life.

"Sometimes [Hispanic] people — they have a lot of kids, and no talk about family planning," she said. "I have neighbors who have nine kids — they come from El Salvador and are all together in the same room."

But Mendez, a sales clerk, said she sees American families with fewer children, and wants to emulate them. "I want to have more money for her," she said, referring to her unborn child.

Mindy Greenside, director of midwifery at Mary's Center, said many more immigrant women are asking about contraception now than five years ago.

One of them is Elizabeth Rosa, 37, a Salvadoran who lives in Langley Park, Md. Pregnant with her third child, she said it will be her last.

"To have more babies, it costs more," she said as her 2-year-old son Emanuel played nearby.

Pointing to her belly, she said she plans to have her tubes tied after giving birth. "The factory is closing," she said with a smile.

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