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Hispanic Assimilation and Fertility in New U.S. Destinations


  • A version of this paper was presented at the 2010 annual meetings of the Population Association of America, Dallas, Texas. The authors acknowledge the helpful comments of Sharon Sassler, William Kandel, Jennifer Van Hook, and the anonymous reviewers. Research support provided by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Annie E. Casey Foundation, and NICHD (through population research center R24 grant to the Cornell Population Center).


This paper evaluates comparative patterns of fertility in new Hispanic destinations and established gateways using pooled cross-sectional data from the 2005–2009 microdata files of the American Community Survey. Changing Hispanic fertility provides a useful indicator of cultural incorporation. Analyses show that high fertility among Hispanics has been driven in part by the Mexican origin and other new immigrant populations (e.g., non-citizens, those with poor English language skills, etc.). However, high fertility rates among Hispanics cannot be explained entirely by sociodemographical characteristics that place them at higher risk of fertility. For 2005–2009, Hispanic fertility rates were 48 percent higher than fertility among whites; they were roughly 25 percent higher after accounting for differences in key social characteristics, such as age, nativity, country of origin, and education. Contrary to most previous findings of spatial assimilation among in-migrants, fertility rates among Hispanics in new destinations exceeded fertility in established gateways by 18 percent. In the multivariate analyses, Hispanics in new destinations were roughly 10 percent more likely to have had a child in the past year than those living in established gateways. Results are consistent with subcultural explanations of Hispanic fertility and raise new questions about the spatial patterning of assimilation and the formation of ethnic enclaves outside traditional settlement areas.