Some few months ago, I remember meeting up with a chick from Mexican Cupid near Copilco area of Mexico City.
I forgot her name but she showed up outside of my apartment.
Before coming in, we took a quick walk to the nearby park before ultimately going back to my apartment for some drinks.
Along the way back, I remember her mentioning to me how she has 5 kids.
Something I didn’t know.
In the moment, I thought she was just joking.
In part because we were laughing about something making casual jokes before she mentioned that.
But also because I can’t remember the last time I ever met anybody in the US or anywhere else who I knew had 5 kids.
On top of that, she definitely didn’t look like she had 5 kids.
Still, as I said, I thought she was just joking but she turned out to be serious.
It was such an unusual thing to hear but I didn’t make a big deal about it.
In my mind though, it was a bit weird to me because, as I said, I just don’t meet people in Latin America (Mexico or anywhere) who have had that many kids.
Especially not in urban areas like Mexico City where more women, like elsewhere in the world, delay starting a family to focus on education and career.
In that context, you could argue very well that she’s the anomaly in Latin America.
Back in the US, you have folks who think differently.
Those who are a bit ignorant and think every Latina is just some anchor baby popping machine.
Crosses the border with 2 kids already holding her hands.
Then immediately pops out 8 more to stay in the US.
Though I’m not familiar with the fertility rate of illegal immigrants and if that’s just an ignorant stereotype or not…
I can say, without question, that you don’t see as many people – definitely not in my generation – having too many kids down here in Latin America.
So that chick telling me that she has 5 kids was quite a difference from what I normally see down here.
Among all of the women I meet up with, almost none of them have had kids.
And I meet chicks as young as 20 to those in their 30s.
If they do have a previous kid, it’s usually just 1 or 2.
Furthermore, it’s not just my own observations that support this.
You do have actual data that shows that the fertility rate in Latin America isn’t actually that high.
The Data on Fertility Rates in Latin America
First, we have this source here to look at:
“The annual birth rate has been on decline in Latin America and the Caribbean since 2005. In 2019, this region's birth rate amounted to an average of 16.1 live births per 1,000 population, down from almost 20 births per 1,000 people in 2005. The population growth rate in Latin America and Caribbean has started to decrease in the last few years.”
Then there is this source here that claims:
“At present, and according to recent United Nations estimates, 18 Latin American countries have Total Fertility Rates (TFR) below the replacement level (United Nations 2017).”
But, as we all know, not all of Latin America is the same.
So how do individual countries compare to each other when it comes to fertility rates?
Well we have some data here that ranks all of the countries in the world by their fertility rate. Among Latin American countries, I ranked them from highest to lowest fertility rate in order as you can see here:
- Dominican Republic
- El Salvador
- Costa Rica
- Puerto Rico
That same source also claims that the fertility rate for all of Latin America and the Caribbean is at 2.0 births per women.
Which is just below replacement level.
Now, to be fair, it seems to me that the numbers between the last two sources are a little bit different.
But the first one came from the United Nations and the second one came from the World Bank.
As you’ll see, the numbers do have slight variances based on the ranking.
But the general idea is true regardless of the numbers you look at – Latin America is more broadly speaking going down a path of having a below replacement fertility rate.
Just like a lot of the world!
And, when looking at that list above, it’s no surprise to me that the countries that generally are poorer (with exceptions like El Salvador or Cuba) have higher fertility rates.
Where the countries that generally do better have lower fertility rates.
Still, what could possibly explain this shift in Latin America?
The Change in Fertility in Latin America
Based on what I have seen, I believe much of the change is similar to what you see in other parts of the world like the US.
It’s my opinion that one solid reason behind the decline in fertility is simply a change in priorities in the younger generation.
Where you have more women going to school and getting a career.
As a result, you’re going to have ever increasingly more women delaying their first child when compared to women from previous generations.
Also, by giving women more access to education and career, you do make it possible for women to more commonly choose if they want kids at all or not.
With some of them choosing to never have kids…
And with some women simply doing so well career wise that they become pickier in who to have children with and so they simply wait too long to get the job done.
Or, in the case where they do have a kid, they have less overall because, in part, they simply wait longer before having their first one.
On top of that, I’d be willing to bet part of the change is cultural too like elsewhere.
The younger generation simply prioritizing a life where they can provide better for the few they have instead of having a ton of kids.
Of course, my own views on this might be influenced a bit by living in a very urban area (Mexico City) where you simply have a lot more women pursuing education and career versus a small town in rural Chiapas.
As I implied before, geography does matter when it comes to fertility rates as some places have higher fertility rates than others.
And, in those areas with lower fertility rates that we saw, like Guatemala or Paraguay, you do have more poorer communities where maybe there’s less opportunities for your average chick to get ahead in line.
Maybe more conservative too than a place like Mexico City?
That’d be part of the equation too, I think.
And, interesting enough, there are some differences in how women have kids depending on their socioeconomic status as you can see in this source here:
“The results show that the lower- and upper-class couples changed their fertility differently. Upper-class women delayed their first birth, but the childbearing period remained relatively stable. Compared to other social classes, the number of children women in the upper-class had changed the least. In saying that, it is important to recognize that as this class was relatively small, its contribution to the overall fertility decline was minor.
Lower-class women, on the other hand, had their first child earlier. The childbearing period was also shortened due to having their last birth at an earlier point as well. This ultimately resulted in less children at the end of their childbearing age. As the number of couples in the lower class was comparatively large, it served as a the main contributor to the overall fertility change.”
And then we finally have this source here that expands on what is said above but also mentions two other reasons for the decreased fertility rates:
“Changes in fertility in South America have occurred with the expansion of mandatory education, which simultaneously has raised the cost of rearing children, reduced their benefits to families, and provided young women with the education needed to seek employment. A decline in birth rates occurred in the early 21st century because of improved access to birth control. Birth rates declined first in the prosperous areas of the southern cone, but all regions have experienced the effects of growing educational and employment opportunities for young women in an increasingly urbanized environment.”
And beyond all of those broader points about Latin America at large, let’s look at one particular country just to give us an example of what is going on.
Brazil as an Example of Lower Fertility in Latin America
So we have this interesting article here that really gives us some interesting insight into lower fertility rates in Brazil.
In the article, they state that Brazil has went from on average 6 children per women to less than 2 over 50 years with Brazil now having a lower fertility rate than the US.
To which it dives into the explanation with this bit here:
“Demographers say the fertility rate is declining because the country is richer and more urban, but they also point to Brazil's hugely popular soap operas and their portrayal of small, glamorous families.
Veronica Marques has a husband, a career she loves and a nice apartment in a trendy district in Rio de Janeiro. In a restaurant near her office, Marques explains that she's 31 and doesn't have children.
"I'm planning to have kids when I have a bigger career, when I raise more money, and maybe when I have my life in another step," she says.
When she does have kids, she says, it'll be two — tops. Smart, educated, ambitious, Marques is typical of a growing number of Brazilian women who are focused more on their careers.”
So it basically comes down to economics and cultural shifts.
Where, when it comes to economics, you have more women wanting to have a more solid career before having any kids.
Similarly, even the poorer classes have chosen to have less kids as more of them migrate from rural areas into the cities where having more kids is expensive in a city than a rural town supposedly.
At any rate, let’s go back to my experiences in Mexico and also broader Latin America.
My Own Experience in Latin America
When I think of all of the women I’ve dated formally or hooked up with, I’ll tell you again that none of them were like the chick in the beginning of this article with 5 children.
Most didn’t even have 1 kid.
Now, to be fair, a lot of them were in their early to mid 20s.
Still, one could see that having kids in your earlier 20s was more common a few decades ago versus now.
And, among some of the older chicks I’ve been with, almost none of them had kids.
I remember two Dominican chicks named Germania and Deborah who had a kid each.
Both being in their mid 20s more or less.
Another Dominican one who went by the name Morena that didn’t have any kids and was in her 30s.
A Mexican chick in her 30s named Alejandra who didn’t have any kids.
A few years ago, a Mexican chick named Araceli who was serious about settling down but told me she only wanted 1 or maybe 2 kids at most.
I never dated her formally but she treated the first date like an interview and the topic came up.
And among the Latina chicks I have formally dated?
Well, I had a one named Marcela from Colombia. From what I remember, she wanted 2 kids at most. Nothing more.
Then there was one Mexican chick named Daniela who I was with briefly that wasn’t sure if she wanted kids at all.
Also, there’s my last ex (also from Mexico) whose name was Brenda and she was about the same as Marcela.
Maybe 2 kids at most but perhaps just 1.
Marcela came from a rougher background financially and the last two were more comfortable financially with Brenda even pursuing a career as a doctor.
Anyway, I could probably bring up a handful of other women I’ve met down here but I think you get the point.
Anything to Add?
But I think the mentioned trends at large here can be seen in most countries down here.
Urbanization, modernization, more women entering the workforce, birth control, more women having a choice to have a kid or not, shifting cultural values, etc.
Anyway, if you have anything to add, drop a comment below in the comment section.
Finally, enjoy this interesting video on population trends in South America.
And follow my Twitter here.
Thanks for reading.