Report finds Indian Country’s population is slowing, part of a national trend

Vincent Schilling / Mother and child at the Chickahominy powwow in Virginia. According to the CDC, Indian Country's population is slowing.

Mark Trahant

Sharp drop in births from young American Indian and Alaska Native mothers

American Indians and Alaska Natives have had some of the fastest growing population rates in the United States. But that could be changing. Dramatically.

New numbers from the Centers for Disease Control show a slowing of the American Indian and Alaska Native birth rates, especially among younger women and girls.

Data from the Vital Statistics Surveillance Report reports that nearly 30,000 American Indians and Alaska Natives were born last year and 9.418 Pacific Islanders or Native Hawaiians.

There were a total of 3.9 million births in the United States from all races.

The states with the most American Indian and Alaska Native babies were: Oklahoma with 4,595 births; Arizona at 4,250; New Mexico, 2,650; Alaska, 1,898; South Dakota,1,805, California, 1,412; Montana, 1,230; Minnesota, 1,042; Washington, 1,113. The CDC says only nine American Indian or Alaska Native babies were born in Washington, D.C. And Vermont has the smallest number of any state with 14 babies.

There were 9,418 Native Hawaiians or Pacific Islanders born in the United States last year, the most coming from Guam at 2,102 births, California, 1,809, and Hawaii,1,683.

There were 897,518 Hispanics born in 2016.

For American Indians and Alaska Natives, the CDC builds its database using what it describes as “single race” statistics drawn from birth certificates. The data are based on 99.93% of 2017 births and is considered provisional.

Nationally, the CDC said the birth rate for females aged 10–14 reached a record low for the United States in 2015 and 2016, at 0.2 births per 1,000 females, down from 0.9 in 2000.

The data from 2000 to 2016 show American Indian and Alaska Natives births declined from 1.1 per 1,000 females aged 10-14 to 0.3 births per 1,000.

Birth rates for Hispanic females also declined during the same time period from, from 1.7 per 1,000 to 0.4 in 2016.

NCHS, National Vital Statistics System, Natality. / Nationally, the CDC said the birth rate for females aged 10–14 reached a record low for the United States in 2015 and 2016, at 0.2 births per 1,000 females, down from 0.9 in 2000.

​These numbers raise more questions than answers. For example: Does this reflect an improvement in teen education about sexuality? Or a general, long-term decline in reproduction? The economy? The mindsets of millennials? Or just a blip in the data? More questions than answers.

The CDC says “a number of factors have been cited for the downward trend in teen childbearing in general, including delayed initiation of first sex, decreased sexual activity, and for sexually active teenagers, the use of effective contraception. The decreasing trend observed among those aged 10–14 is similar to the decreasing trend observed among females aged 15–19.”

These numbers match a decline in the number of babies being born across the United States. The national birth rate hit a record low in 2017. The report said some 3.8 million babies were born in the country, a 2 percent drop from the number born in 2016, and the lowest recorded number of births in 30 years.

Even with the declines, the CDC noted that the U.S. birth rate for females aged 10–14 remains one of the highest among industrialized countries. “Childbearing by very young mothers is a matter of public concern because of the elevated health risks for these mothers and their infants and the socioeconomic consequences,” the CDC says.

The bigger picture continues to show a record low in births, the lowest number in 30 years, the CDC found. The provisional number of births in the U.S. was 3,853,472 — down 2 percent from 2016, the largest 1-year decline since 2010 — with a provisional general fertility rate of 60.2 births per 1,000 among women ages 15-44, a decline of 3 percent.

It takes 2,100 births per 1,000 women to replace any given generation. The rate has generally been below replacement since 1971.