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Lucky Year of the Dragon brings Chinese baby boom

Selena Wang, 2, and mom Jing Jing Shi of Flushing watches the Lunar New Year Parade in Flushing, which marks the start of a new year. This year is now the Year of the Dragon.
TimesLedger Newspapers

Everybody wants to have a baby during the Year of the Dragon beginning Monday, according to leaders in Flushing’s Chinese community.

The dragon is the most auspicious of the 12 signs of the Chinese zodiac, which mean potential parents will alter their pregnancy plans if it means giving their bundle of joy a little boost of luck in life.

“Parents will wait for a year or six months for the Year of the Dragon,” said Fred Fu, head of the Flushing Development Center.

Fu’s own parents timed their sons so they could have two in the Year of the Dragon. His older brother was born toward the beginning of 1952, and his own birth in January 1953 squeaked in just weeks before the change to the Year of the Snake.

“That year, there will be more babies,” he said.

The last Year of the Dragon occurred in 2000, and looking at births of the city’s Chinese population, there was a discernible spike.

As a general trend, both the Chinese population of the city and babies born to women of Chinese ancestry have increased at the same rate, according to the U.S. census, which tracks population growth only for those who choose to fill out a questionnaire.

In 1990, there were about 4,000 babies born to women of Chinese descent throughout the entire city when about 175,000 people of Chinese ethnicity were living in the city, according to the census.

By 2010, both those numbers more than doubled to over 8,300 babies and nearly 475,000 people.

While the birth rate did not increase by the exact same amount each year, 2000 did see a significant rise, according to the data.

Babies born to women of Chinese ancestry jumped 18 percent from 5,216 in 1999 to 6,179 in 2000 — one of the biggest surges in the 20-year period. The births went back down the next year to 5,781 before climbing again in tandem with the increase in population.

The spike was even more pronounced for the Chinese community in Queens, where the births increased by 21 percent.

The extra births might not have overburdened the city’s resources in New York City, but in Fu’s native Taiwan the onslaught of Dragon babies means school systems have to prepare to be strained every 12 years.

“There will be too many kids for that year,” Fu said.

Parents want their children to be Dragons because of the character traits associated with the zodiac animal — power, prestige, independence, success and drive, to name a few.

But to chalk up the bump in the data solely to the Year of the Dragon may be misleading. There was indeed a bump, but there were also spikes in the birthrate other years. Drastic increases occurred in 1995, 2000, 2004 and 2007, which had the largest increase.

But whether Flushing will welcome in more New Year’s babies than normal is beside the point. The community is geared up for the extra-special holiday and, according to Fu, the neighborhood is brimming with excitement and optimism.

“If it’s the Year of the Cat, it’s just normal,” he said. “But the Year of the Dragon, wow, it is different. People love it.”

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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