In Puerto Rico, the birthrate (the number of live births per 1,000 inhabitants) has been decreasing for a rather long time (Table 1) [Table1]. Around the middle of the 19th century, the birthrate was 55 births per1,000 inhabitants. By the end of the century, the rate was 51 and it continued to go down slowly until 1950, when 40.7 births per 1,000 inhabitants were recorded. In other words, the birthrate went down more than 10 points, or 20 percent, during the first 50 years of the 20th century.
Between 1950 and 1960, the rate decreased from 40.7 to 35.0, that is a decrease of 14 percent in just one decade, which is a quite radical deviation from what one could observe up to 1950. In recent years, the decrease has been much slower, and in 1966, the rate was 31.1 births per 1,000 inhabitants. A large part of this decrease can be attributed to changes in the age, sex, and marital status structures of the Puerto Rican population as a result of the mass emigrationemigration: The departure of persons from their place of origin to settle elsewhere. of Puerto Ricans to the United States. During the decade of the 1950s, a total of 450,000 emigrants, 350,000 of whom were between the ages of 15 and 44, and constitute 78 percent of the total, belonged to groups with the highest rates of biological reproduction. In addition, emigration took away more men than women, so the proportion of married women in the younger groups, those of highest fertility, decreased between 1950 and 1960. And finally, mass emigration resulted in a significant increase in the proportion of married women whose spouses were absent.
Among the factors that are traditionally associated with fertility are age, place of residence and birth, education, economic activity, economic level, and the woman's religion. In Puerto Rico one can observe a well-known fact: fertility in women decreases with age. Just as in most countries of the contemporary world, fertility is higher in the rural population than in the urban population. Mothers who were born and lived in San Juan (the capital) had the lowest fertility rate, and following them, in ascending order, were those who were born in San Juan and lived elsewhere, followed by those who were not born in San Juan but lived in the capital. Those with the highest fertility rate were neither were born nor lived in San Juan at the time of the census. For all age groups, fertility decreased consistently as the educational level increased. Women who worked had fewer children on average than those who did not work, at least in Puerto Rico. Though it is true that in several studies carried out in Puerto Rico, it has been found that there is some relation between fertility and economic level, the degree of correlation between these two variables is very low. There is no relation at all between the level of fertility and the religion of the person.
Autor: José L Vázquez Calzada
Published: September 15, 2010.
Version: 06081502 Rev. 1