How are birth trends and family demographics changing across Los Angeles County, and why does it matter?

A new examination of L.A. County birth records reveals major demographic shifts, but trends vary in different parts of the county. Full results, plus interactive maps, can be found here:

Among the key findings:

  • The fertility rate—births per 1,000 women ages 15-49—declined significantly in all areas of the county from 2002 to 2012, the most recent decade of data available from birth records. The number of births dropped in all regions of the county, too, except in Antelope Valley which had a small increase (6%).
  • The majority of births occurred in the San Gabriel and San Fernando Valleys, and the South L.A. region, during this decade.
  • Births to teens dropped countywide, as well, with the greatest reductions in the San Fernando Valley, West L.A. areas, and South Bay.
  • During 2002-2012, all areas of the county also saw declines in births to women who had not completed high school. Trends varied, though, for infants whose mothers had college degrees, with decreases in the Metro, South, and East L.A. areas, and in Antelope Valley, but substantial increases in the West L.A. areas.
  • The number of births to white and Latina mothers dropped countywide by 33% and 19%, respectively, during this decade, whereas births to Chinese mothers rose 146%—this increase was most dramatic in the San Gabriel Valley.
  • The report also includes 2006-2016 data on the 400,000+ low-income women and young children served by the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) in L.A. County. These data reveal decreasing percentages of participants with Spanish as their preferred language, and rising percentages who prefer English, in every region of the county.

Why does it matter? L.A. County’s shrinking child population, retiring baby boom generation, and projected workforce shortages indicate that children are an increasingly vital resource for the county’s future prosperity. Supporting families with young children, in particular, is essential for a thriving future population, as the building blocks for lifelong health and wellness are set in the earliest years of childhood. Decades of research show investments in young children pay off.

Understanding demographic trends by region is critical for planning services to meet changing needs and for making effective investments in systems to support children and families. Historic service distribution patterns may need to change to meet shifting demographic conditions, and communities with the largest concentrations of young children need the infrastructure and resources to support these families. Assuring a healthy start for children should be one of the highest priorities for our county—our future literally depends on it.

About the project

This is the first of four Children’s Data Network “Connecting the Dots” snapshots to be released in 2017, drawing on data from birth records to examine regional trends within L.A. County. The next three snapshots will explore specific indicators of healthy birth outcomes. The Connecting the Dots project brings together data and stories to provide new insights about the health and well-being of children and families in L.A. County.

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