Birth rates for poor high in N.M.

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By Ralph Damiani

Again, New Mexico is near the top of a list we probably wish we were not even on.

According to the Associated Press, New Mexico is one of eight states with statistically higher rates of births from women on public assistance.

In other words, our poor are having children at a high rate. So much for the state and schools educating us.

Of course, this goes hand in hand with our high drop out rate and our low educational levels.

Let’s just give more money to our failing schools!

Anyway, new census data released last week said New Mexico joins Alaska, Nebraska, Utah, Texas, Iowa, Wisconsin and Tennessee in having higher than average rates of mothers age 15 to 50 on public assistance.

The figures are based on data from 2006, a decade after the passage of welfare reform in 1996.

Census officials say the measure gave states greater flexibility to put in place initiatives to reduce welfare dependency for members of low-income families with children.

The national average rate of births from women on public assistance is nearly 155 births per 1,000.

Contrast that with the release of another report that states that more American women in their early 40s are childless, and those who are having children are having fewer than ever before, the Census Bureau reports.

In the last 30 years, the number of women age 40 to 44 with no children has doubled, from 10 percent to 20 percent. And those who are mothers have an average of 1.9 children each, more than one child fewer than women of the same age in 1976.

The report, Fertility of American Women: 2006, is the first from the Census Bureau to use data from an annual survey of 76 million women, ages 15 to 50, allowing a state-by-state comparison of fertility patterns.

About 4.2 million women participating in the survey, which was conducted from January through December 2006, had had a child in the previous year. The statistics could be used by state agencies to provide maternal care services, the report said.

The survey found that in 2006 women with graduate or professional degrees recorded the most births of all educational levels. About 36 percent of women who gave birth in the previous 12 months were separated, divorced, widowed or unmarried.

Unemployed women had about twice as many babies as working women, although women in the labor force accounted for the majority‚ 57 percent of recent births.

Only a quarter of all women who had a child over the past year were living below the poverty level.

Coupled with fertility data collected biannually, the report also revealed longer term trends, including how second-generation Hispanic women are having fewer babies than their foreign-born grandmothers and first-generation American mothers.

Differences among states also emerged. California, Nevada, Texas, Arizona, Florida, Illinois, New York and New Jersey had a greater percentage of foreign-born women who became mothers in 2006.

A bigger share of women in the Southeast and Southwest who gave birth in the year prior to the survey did so in poverty.

The world’s poorest countries have one thing in ever greater abundance – people.

“Nearly all of world population growth is now concentrated in the world’s poorer countries,” said Bill Butz, president of the Population Reference Bureau, an independent research organization.

Currently 1.2 billion people live in countries classified as developed by the United Nations, compared with 5.5 billion in less developed regions, PRB said in its annual Population Data Sheet, released Monday.

There is little growth – even decline – in the richer countries.

“And by 2050, global population is projected to rise to 9.3 billion. Between now and mid-century, these diverging growth patterns will boost the population share living in today’s less developed countries from 82 percent to 86 percent,” said PRB demographer Carl Haub.

Other findings from the data sheet:

• Some 35 percent of the population in the least developed countries is undernourished, and that rises to 60 percent in some sub-Saharan countries.

• One in 75 women died of pregnancy-related causes in less developed countries. In developed countries, the rate of maternal death is one in 6,000.

• Lifetime fertility is 5.4 children per woman in sub-Saharan Africa and 4.7 in the least developed countries. In the developed countries, women average 1.6 children.

• Sometime this year the world will have an urban majority for the first time, with more than half of people living in cities.