Surge in birth rate among unwed Hispanics creating new U.S. underclass
Heather Mac Donald:
Unless the life chances of children raised by single mothers suddenly improve, the explosive growth of the U.S. Hispanic population over the next couple of decades does not bode well for American social stability.
The dimensions of the Hispanic baby boom are startling. The Hispanic birthrate is twice as high as that of the rest of the American population. That high fertility rate – even more than unbounded levels of immigration – will fuel the rapid Hispanic population boom in the coming decades.
By 2050, the Latino population will have tripled, the Census Bureau projects. One in four Americans will be Hispanic by midcentury, twice the current ratio.
It's the fertility surge among unwed Hispanics that should worry policymakers. Hispanic women have the highest unmarried birthrate in the country – over three times that of whites and Asians, and nearly 1 ½ times that of black women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Every 1,000 unmarried Hispanic women bore 92 children in 2003 (the latest year for which data exist), compared with 28 children for unmarried white women, 22 for unmarried Asian women, and 66 for unmarried black women.
Forty-five percent of all Hispanic births occur outside of marriage, compared with 24 percent for whites and 15 percent for Asians. Only the percentage for blacks – 68 percent – is higher. But the black population is not going to triple over the next few decades.
The only bright news in this demographic disaster story concerns teen births. Overall teen childbearing in the U.S. declined for the 12th year in a row in 2003, having dropped by more than a third since 1991. Yet even here, Hispanics remain a cause for concern. The rate of childbirth for teens from Mexico, part of the fastest-growing immigrant population in the U.S., greatly outstrips every other group.
To grasp the reality behind those numbers, one need only talk to people working on the front lines of family breakdown. Social workers in Southern California, the national epicenter for illegal Hispanic immigrants, are in despair over the epidemic of single parenting. Not only has illegitimacy become perfectly acceptable, they say, but so has the resort to welfare and social services to cope with it.
Dr. Ana Sanchez delivers babies at St. Joseph's Hospital in the city of Orange, Calif., many of them to Hispanic teenagers. To her dismay, they view having a child at their age as normal. But what is "most alarming," Dr. Sanchez says, is that the "teens' parents view having babies outside of marriage as normal, too. A lot of the grandmothers are single as well; they never married, or they had successive partners. So the mom sends the message to her daughter that it's OK to have children out of wedlock."
Dr. Sanchez feels almost personally involved in the problem: "I'm Hispanic myself. I wish I could find out what the Asians are doing right." She guesses that Asian parents' passion for education inoculates their children against the underclass trap. "Hispanics are not picking that up like the Asian kids," she says with a sigh.
Other articles by Heather Mac Donald:
To stop gangs, call the Scouts
Blaming New York’s Finest