The Last Hurrah for Big Ethnic Families? the Higher Cost of Living and an Economy on the Downturn May Trump Religious Beliefs That Dictate Having a Lot of Children

By Mask, Teresa | Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), June 23, 2001 | Go to article overview

The Last Hurrah for Big Ethnic Families? the Higher Cost of Living and an Economy on the Downturn May Trump Religious Beliefs That Dictate Having a Lot of Children


Mask, Teresa, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)


Byline: Teresa Mask Daily Herald Staff Writer

Maria Guadalupe Salazar considers five children a small family.

After all, her grandmother in Mexico had 21 children. Her mother had nine.

"I decided to have a large family," said Salazar, speaking through a translator. "I was feeling too lonesome without family over here so I wanted to have lots of children."

Holding 8-month-old Daisy, her fifth child, Salazar, of Rolling Meadows, said she's a new mom for the last time. Her older children - three other girls and a boy - range in ages from 10 to seven.

Newly released census figures give credence to a longstanding belief that Hispanics traditionally have large families.

But some observers are predicting that trend is about to change.

They believe that, by the next census, the figures will indicate smaller families for all ethnic groups. They attribute the changes to economics and immigrant assimilation.

"As (Hispanics) acculturate one generation to the next, they will have fewer kids," said Luis Garcia, president of Garcia/LKS, a Texas-based multicultural marketing firm, which primarily focuses on Hispanic communities.

But for now, the numbers clearly show more Hispanics have large families than any other ethnic group.

In Round Lake Beach, for example, Hispanics have an average of five family members, compared to four in black families and 3.6 for both white and Asian families. In Carpentersville, Hispanic families average 4.9 people, compared to 3.9 in Asian families and 3.7 and 3.5 in black and white families, respectively.

Census figures show that in many communities, such as Elgin, Carpentersville and Round Lake Beach, Hispanics lead the way in the number of people who have families of seven or more.

For minorities, such as Hispanics and blacks in particular, it's an accepted and sometimes expected part of the culture to have many children. Those with strong religious beliefs often consider multiple offspring blessings from God.

"Hispanics do have the largest families, period - no matter where you live," Garcia said. "Part of it has to do with Catholic upbringing, but it's very typical to have more than three children."

Anjelia and Eladio Herrera, of Wheeling have nine children, ranging in age from nine to 30.

"I like it," 19-year-old Arturo Herrera says of his large family. "It's really nice having a large family. There always is someone to talk to, play ball with and go to the movies."

But as people begin to feel the blow of an economy on the downturn and more companies consider layoffs, Hispanics and others may reconsider having large families, said Campo Vaca, executive director of the Rolling Meadows Police Neighborhood Resource Center.

The center provides services to the primarily Hispanic residents who live in the East Park Apartments complex. …

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