National Data | Hispanic Family Values?
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We all know that Hispanic immigrants are going to turn into conservative Republicans because of their "Hispanic Family Values." We know this because the Wall Street Journal Editorial Page keeps telling us so.

Unfortunately, what we know has this unfortunate drawback: it's not true.

Overall, Hispanics show a significantly higher level of social pathology than American whites. There are even signs that, as a group, Hispanics may displace American blacks and form a new underclass.

  • Illegitimacy rates: unmarried Hispanic women aged 15-44 are about one-third again as likely to have a child as unmarried black women in that age bracket – 93.4 per 1,000 vs. 71.5 - and more than three times as an unmarried white women (27.9 per 1,000). [Source: Centers For Disease Control, pdf file]
  • Abortion: Hispanic women are two and a half times more likely to have abortions than white women (33 per 1,000 annually vs. 13) and nearly-two thirds as likely as black women (49). [Source: Guttmacher Institute]
  • Teenage pregnancy: Hispanics are high (about 94 per 1,000 vs. 32 for whites) and relatively worsening – they've now surpassed blacks (83 per 1,000). [Source: Centers For Disease Control, pdf file]
  • Dependency: Nearly one-third (30.6%) of Hispanics receive means-tested benefits, compared to less than a tenth (9.2%) of non-Hispanic whites and just over a third (35.0%) of blacks. [Source: U.S. Census, pdf file]
  • Criminality: just over one in every hundred adult male Hispanics (1.2%) was imprisoned in 2001 – almost a third of the non-Hispanic black rate (3.5%) and well over twice the non-Hispanic white rate (0.5%). [Source: Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics, 2001, pdf file]
  • Risky behavior: The Hispanic death rate from HIV disease is 2.5-times that of whites (7 per 100,000 vs. 2.8), and about one-third of the black rate (24). [National Center For Health Statistics, pdf file]

If current trends (and immigration policies) continue, Hispanics will clearly soon replace blacks as America's most disadvantaged ethnic group. On some key indicators they are already in last place.

In 2001, for example, Hispanic median income ($16,705) was nearly a tenth below the corresponding figure for blacks ($18,437) and a quarter below white median income ($22,418). As recently as 1992 Hispanic median income exceeded that of blacks. Back in the mid-1970s, Hispanic median income was nearly 20% larger than the black median. [Source: U.S. Census.]

Education seems unlikely to help Hispanic acculturation. Just over half (56.5%) Hispanics over 25 had a high school degree or more, compared to nearly nine-tenths (88.7%) of whites and nearly four-fifths (79.5%) of blacks. [Source: Digest of Education Statistics 2002, pdf file, my calculations]

Younger Hispanics show no sign of catching up. They are four times more likely to be without a high school degree than young whites, and 2.1 times more likely than young blacks.  

This relative underperformance is persistent. Buried in Supplemental Table 3.3b in the Department of Education's recently issued Status And Trends in the Education of Hispanics [pdf file] is the interesting information that second-generation Hispanics aged 16-24 are nearly twice as likely to drop out of high school as other second-generation immigrants (15.9% vs. 8.2%).

In other words, some immigrants are better than others. In fact, some Hispanic immigrants are better than others, or at least different. For example, Mexican-American women are estimated [pdf file] to average 3.32 births over their lifetimes, versus only 1.7 births for Cuban-Americans.

Which suggests that, rationally, immigration policy should distinguish on the basis of national origin – exactly the much-denounced principle repudiated by the influx-unleashing 1965 Immigration Act.

Edwin S. Rubenstein (email him) is President of ESR Research Economic Consultants in Indianapolis.

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