Is Minnesota’s immigrant baby boom over?

We posted Thursday on how the recession is at least partly to blame for the drop in Minnesota births the past couple years.

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That story was grounded in some cool data recently published by the state demographer’s office.

But the demographer’s report also opens a window on some surprising social change underway in Minnesota. The 20-year baby boom of births in Minnesota from foreign born mothers appears to have peaked.

Here are two key charts. The first shows that mothers born outside the U.S. have accounted for a growing portion of all births in Minnesota.

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This second shows the change in total births by mothers from other countries during the recession. You’ll see a significant drop — about 10 percent — in the number of births in Minnesota by women who were born in Mexico.

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Overall, births to women born outside the U.S. dropped 3.9 percent between 2007 and 2009, “almost identical to the 4 percent decline for native-born women,” the demographer’s study notes.

“This is a sharp change from the trend that prevailed in the 1990s and most of the 2000s, a period which saw a rapid rise in the number and proportion of births to foreign-born women.”

So what’s going on? The report speculates that families from Mexico have stopped moving to Minnesota or have begun to leave as economic opportunity dried up in the recession. “Another possibility is that Mexican women, like others in Minnesota, are postponing births in the face of economic uncertainty.”

No matter where you stand on the immigration policy debate, the birth data pose a concern for Minnesota’s economy.

Minnesota’s non-partisan Legislative Auditor found the overall economic impact of immigrants to Minnesota has been positive.

Beyond the economic impact, their children have helped sustain small school systems that otherwise might not have survived. That’s true especially in southern Minnesota. Latino students make up a third of the student body in towns like Sleepy Eye and Butterfield — 40 percent in the St. James schools.

Now, the initial data coming from the recession years suggests a shift. Minnesota, struggling to grow jobs in the recovery, may not be the magnet for immigrants that we’ve come to expect the past two decades.

We’re already looking at an aging, slow growth workforce. What happens if Minnesota isn’t a draw for immigrants and others going forward?

Businesses might have a harder time finding workers, and there could be less demand for goods and services in the state. The Great Recession could be doing more damage to Minnesota’s future than we realize.

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