PHOENIX >> Trish La Chica migrated from the Philippines to the United States six years ago in search of the American experience and a graduate degree.
La Chica got her master’s in public administration and is now the policy director at a nonprofit health organization in Hawaii. Two weeks ago, she gave birth to a boy, joining the ranks of the rising number of Asian women who give birth to children in the United States.
Asian immigrant women are increasingly accounting for a larger share of foreign mothers who give birth to children in the U.S., signaling a changing landscape of immigrants in America as Asians continue to outpace Latinos in growth.
The Pew Research Center released new data Wednesday showing that Asian immigrants account for 22 percent of U.S. births by foreign women, up from 16 percent in 2010.
La Chica, who is 30, said she came to the United States, first San Francisco and later Hawaii, to experience living here. Her mother lives in California and helped her get permanent legal residency; La Chica is now an American citizen.
“I’m planning on raising and living and working here. We now own a house,” La Chica said. “I think Hawaii is a perfect place to raise a family.”
Meanwhile, fewer Latin American immigrants are having babies in the U.S. The study found the share of births from foreign-born mothers from Latin America dropped from 64 percent of foreign mothers in 2008 to 54 percent in 2014. About 7 percent of all births in the U.S. are from immigrants lacking legal status.
The report also found that immigrants are the driving force behind births in the U.S. The number of American women who gave birth in 2014 has dropped 11 percent since 1970, while immigrant women have tripled the number of births they gave.
The report comes amid a heated presidential election in which Republican nominee Donald Trump has garnered support — and drawn ire — by claiming he will build a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border and by expressing largely anti-immigrant sentiment.
But demographers say immigrants are key to growth in the U.S. Fewer American women are having children, while immigrant women have disproportionately high birth rates compared to their U.S.-born counterparts. Women from sub-Saharan Africa have the highest annual fertility, with 106.4 births per 1,000 women, according to the Pew study. The rate for Latin American women is 80.6 per 1,000, accounting for over half of births to immigrant mothers in the U.S.
“We in the United States have been and are going to be dependent on immigrants and the children of immigrants in the growth of our population,” said William Frey, a senior fellow in the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution. “I think this adds to that in that the immigrant population of women is helping move that along.”
Frey says that if it weren’t for immigrants, the country’s birth rate would be much lower, which could result in future problems as the current population ages.
Demographers say a low birth rate can result in a deficit in the labor force and strained social security and social welfare programs, among other economic problems.
The report details a changing makeup of immigrants in the United States, even if Latina immigrants still have far more children than any other foreign-born mothers.
A Pew study last month found that U.S. Hispanic population growth has slowed considerably while the Asian-American population grows. Another report last year found that for the first time, more Mexicans are leaving the U.S. than coming in, and migrants from Central American countries like Honduras and El Salvador account for a higher share of new immigrants from Latin America.
“The American immigrant population has changed throughout our history and it’s changing again,” said Kenneth M. Johnson, a senior demographer at the University of New Hampshire’s Carsey School of Public Policy. “This is just part of the continuing story of America.”