By Ray Stern
Fewer Maricopa County residents had babies in 2007 than the year before — the first such decline in 15 years.
I know what you're thinking — the cause must be all those pregnant illegal immigrants being scared out of the Valley by mean old Sheriff Joe. But that doesn't seem to be the case.
A few other counties also saw a decline in birth rates in 2007. And in Maricopa County, according to state statistics, the trend was partially driven by white folks having fewer babies, not Hispanics.
Statistics from the Arizona Department of Health Services show that births by Maricopa County residents fell from 66,160 in 2006 to 65,931 last year, even as the overall population continued to rise. The last such drop in births by county residents occurred in 1991, according to stats on the ADHS Vital Statistics Web site.
"That's really, really interesting," says Richard Porter, the department's bureau chief for public health statistics. "We have not collected the data any differently."
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(The department's Web site also lists birth stats from the first half of 2008, but officials say some Valley hospitals have not yet reported their births to the state, meaning the numbers can't be fully trusted).
Perhaps the economy is one reason -- when markets began tumbling in 2006, maybe more young couples decided to put off having a baby. Make that more white couples: Health department tables for 2007 and 2006 shows that while the number of Hispanic births in Maricopa County increased last year by more than 800, white mothers had 1,371 fewer babies. The county's blacks and Asians saw slight increases in births, while Native Americans stayed about the same.
Apache, Mohave, Pima and Yuma counties also recorded declines, with Yuma's being the steepest at about 3 percent.