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.
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.