Thursday, November 20th, 2014
False
Miller-Jones
"Did you know that in 2013 over 50 percent of all babies born in Oregon were Hispanic?"

Betsy Miller-Jones on Friday, April 4th, 2014 in a newsletter

Were more than half of all babies born in Oregon in 2013 Hispanic?

Controversial proposals to issue driver’s licenses to undocumented residents and to provide permanent residency to certain immigrants highlight Oregon’s changing demographics.

From 2000 to 2010, for example, the state’s population grew by 12 percent. Oregon’s Hispanic population, by comparison, grew by 64 percent over that span, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.

The Claim

A group of education and community leaders from around the state gathered at Kah-Nee-Ta Resort in February to discuss ways to improve educational outcomes. The event, co-sponsored by the Oregon Education Investment Board, had a particular focus on helping third-grade students of color and English language learners.

A meeting slide show included a "fact" that later showed up in the Oregon School Boards Association’s April newsletter. "Did you know that in 2013 over 50 percent of all babies born in Oregon were Hispanic?" said the newsletter item, written by Betsy Miller-Jones, OSBA executive director.

We’re aware that Oregon’s racial complexion is changing, but are half of all newborns now Hispanic? PolitiFact Oregon checked.

The Analysis

We contacted Jonathan Modie, communications officer for the Oregon Public Health Division.

In an email, he told us that records for 2012 show that of the 45,059 babies born in Oregon that year, 8,521 -- or about 18.9 percent -- were Hispanic, according to official statistics.

Preliminary data for 2013 roughly match the 2012 numbers.

Neither comes close to the "more than 50 percent figure" included in the claim.

To determine where the number came from, we contacted Kristin Gimbel, communications director for the Oregon Education Investment Board.

After checking around, she told us two things. One, that the figure came from a slide show prepared by Zeke Smith, former chief of staff to Portland Schools Superintendent Carole Smith and now chief impact officer for United Way of the Columbia-Willamette.

And, two, that it was wrong.

"Regretfully (Smith) told me that he inadvertently transposed the data," Gimbel wrote in an email. In a follow-up phone call, she said Smith explained that, in working late on a volunteer basis to put the slide show together, he simply neglected to include an important proviso. The claim, she wrote, should have read: "In 2013 for the first time, more than half of the babies born to parents on Medicaid were Hispanic."

Miller-Jones, who included the figure in the Oregon School Boards Association’s April newsletter, acknowledged the mistake. "We relied on information from a normally reliable source," she wrote in an email. "We appreciate your pointing out the error, about which we will inform the OEIB (Oregon Education Investment Board) as well as our members."

The Ruling

The executive director of the Oregon School Boards Association, picking up on a statistic included in a slide show presented to educators and others at a conference in February, wrote in a newsletter that in 2013 "more than 50 percent of all babies born in Oregon were Hispanic."

A check of Oregon vital statistics puts the figure at about 18.9 percent for 2012, and preliminary data for 2013 are about the same. The official who worked late on his own time to prepare the presentation, meanwhile, said he simply goofed in omitting key wording that would have made the claim correct.

It is true that the percentage of Hispanics who call Oregon home is increasing, but Hispanics don’t give birth to more than half of all babies born in the state. Miller-Jones said she will send a correction soon to those who received the newsletter. We rate the claim False.

Return to OregonLive.com/politics to comment on our ruling.