Is It Time For A Black Baby Boom?
Demographer projections show blacks will lag behind others in population growth
Those are issues that minority communities in the U.S. have grappled with for decades, and all have proven to have profound effects on the makeup of those communities.
But in half a century, Hispanic and Asian Americans are expected to do something that African Americans likely won't -- double their U.S. populations by 2060, according to new data from the U.S. Census Bureau.
Nowhere in the bureau's new report does it explain why that is. However, birth rates have fallen steadily for black women, even while life expectancy for blacks has shown moderate, but significant, gains.
So, if African Americans won’t keep pace with other ethnic groups, as demographers are predicting, does that mean they aren’t having enough babies? Not necessarily.
“Their projections for the Hispanic and Asian populations are based on assumptions that they will continue to grow at the rate they are, through natural births, deaths and net international migration,” Census Bureau public affairs official Robert Bernstein told Loop 21.
But a key phrase there that plays into the difference between black and others' population growth may be international migration. According to the 2010 American Community Survey, the main source countries of international migration to the U.S. by black people are Nigeria and the Caribbean nations of Trinidad and Tobago,
Hispanics are expected to more than double their population by 2060, to 128.8 million from 53.3 now. Asians are expected to do about the same, to 34.4 million from 15.9 now. Blacks are expected to increase by about half as much, 50 percent, to 61.8 million from 41.2 million. Additionally, by 2020, whites will not constitute a majority of the children under age 18.
While all racial and ethnic groups’ birth rates have fallen since the early 1990s, black women have experienced the largest drop since 1991, according to the 2011 preliminary report by the National Center for Health Statistics. Back then, black teenagers (ages 15 to 19) gave birth at a rate of 118.2 per 1,000 women. By 2007, that rate had shrunk to 62 births per 1,000. Last year, the rate was 47.4 births. For whites, the rate went from 43.4 births in 1991 to 21.8 births in 2011. Hispanics in the same age group went from 104.6 births in 1991 to 41.9 births last year.
As of 2008, life expectancy for blacks rose from 68.8 years to 70.8 years for men and from 75.7 years to 77.5 years for women, according to research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Blacks closed a gap with whites, who have a life expectancy rate of 76.2 years for men and 81.2 years for woman. Researchers attributed that improvement to gains in preventing heart disease and new HIV infections among blacks.
Still, it seems few people in the mainstream have ideas for how African Americans might jumpstart meaningful population growth.
Some far-right, religious conservatives, like those views expressed by BlackGenocide.org, an African American anti-abortion website, blames the birth control movement begun in the late 1930s as a racist plan to limit the growth of the black population in the U.S.
“Eugenicists strongly espoused racial supremacy and "purity"," particularly of the "Aryan" race,” writes Tanya L. Green on the group’s website. “Eugenicists hoped to purify the bloodlines and improve the race by encouraging the ‘fit’ to reproduce and the ‘unfit’ to restrict their reproduction.”
This group was also responsible for the controversial billboard in New York City, espousing that “the most dangerous place for an African American is in the womb.”
A far less controversial voice in black birth rate discussion is Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, or “Sister Song.” They advocate reproductive justice, which is the right to have children or not have children as a woman chooses and for policies that help to parent children in safe and healthy communities.
“[The framework] is based on the human right to make personal decisions about one’s life, and the obligation of government and society to ensure that the conditions are suitable for implementing one’s decisions,” reads the collective’s website.
In theory, any significant improvement to black birth rates would help the population catch up with other minority groups. But without a significant increase in international migration, it is unlikely blacks will prove the folks at the census bureau wrong by 2060.