Study: Overall Rate Now Nearly the Same as Natives, Hispanic Rate Higher
WASHINGTON (April 24, 2007) – President Bush and others argue that immigrants have a stronger commitment to traditional family values than do native-born Americans. However, a new analysis of birth records by the Center for Immigration Studies shows that about one-third of births to both immigrants and natives are now to unmarried parents. Illegitimate children are at higher risk for social problems, and the risk may be even greater for those with immigrant parents because they need strong families to adjust to life in America.
The full report, entitled ‘Illegitimate Nation: An Examination of Out-of-Wedlock Births Among Immigrants and Natives,’ is available at http://www.cis.org/articles/2007/back507.html .
Among the report’s findings:
*Births to unmarried women have increased dramatically. >From 13 percent in 1980 for immigrant mothers (legal and illegal) to 32 percent in 2003, and from 19 to 35 percent for native-born mothers.
* The rate for immigrants is higher than for natives in Arizona, New Jersey, New York, and North Carolina.
* The modest nationwide difference disappears when teenagers, who have the highest illegitimacy rates, are excluded. There are relatively few immigrant teenagers because immigrants tend to arrive older. Without teenagers, the rate is about 30 percent for both immigrants and natives.
* Hispanic immigrants have seen the largest increase in illegitimacy – from 19 percent in 1980 to 42 percent in 2003. This matters because 59 percent of all births to immigrants are to Hispanics.
* In addition to the 42 percent rate for Hispanic immigrants, 39 percent of births among black immigrants are to unmarried women, 11 percent among Asian/Pacific Islander immigrants, and 12 percent among white immigrants.
* There is no indication of improvement over the generations. The illegitimacy rate among the native-born is 50 percent for Hispanics; 30 percent for Asian/Pacific Islanders, and 24 percent for whites.
* 2003 is the first time that the absolute number of illegitimate births to Hispanic women (immigrant and native) outnumbered illegitimate births to black women (immigrant and native).
* Out-of-wedlock births are highest for those with the least education; among immigrant mothers who lack a high school diploma, 45 percent of births are illegitimate.
* The country is currently debating whether to legalize illegal aliens or, alternatively, to enforce the law and cause them to return home. Since 60 percent of illegals lack a high school diploma and 80 percent are Hispanic, legalization would likely contribute to the illegitimacy problem by enabling illegal aliens to remain in the United States.
“Some want to see immigrants as paragons of virtue, others view them as morally deficient in some way. When it comes to family values, neither view is correct,” said Steven Camarota, the report’s author and the Center’s Director of Research. “Immigrants are subject to the same social forces as everyone else. Thus, the idea that immigration will reinvigorate traditional family values is unrealistic.”
*The children of unmarried immigrants often have to overcome their parents’ very low levels of education as well. In 2003, 56 percent of illegitimate births to immigrants were to a mother who also lacked a high school diploma; for natives the rate was 33 percent. For Hispanic immigrants specifically, the rate was 65 percent.
* There is no evidence that illegitimacy is related to legal status. It is common in many sending countries, regardless of how their immigrants arrived here. According to the UN, 38 percent of births are illegitimate in both Mexico and Canada, 73 percent in El Salvador, and 86 percent in Jamaica.
* The high rate for Hispanic immigrants also seems unrelated to legal status because only one-fifth of non-Mexican Hispanic immigrants are illegal aliens, yet their illegitimacy rate is 45 percent. This compares to 41 percent for Mexican immigrants, fully half of whom are illegal.
* The high levels of out-of-wedlock births among native-born Hispanics also suggests that cultural factors play a significant role in explaining high illegitimacy among that group.
* Another reason to think illegitimacy is more related to cultural factors than legal status is that college-educated Hispanic immigrants, only a small share of whom are illegal, still have triple the rate of illegitimacy as college-educated natives.
* Birth records used in this study count all births, unlike Census Bureau surveys that are more likely to miss poor and less-educated immigrants, who have the highest illegitimacy. Thus Census Bureau data tends to understate family problems among immigrants, and does not specifically report illegitimacy.
* Looking at family structure with Census Bureau data shows that 75 percent of the U.S.-born children of immigrants live in a household headed by a married person, compared to 70 percent for natives. The rate is 70 percent for Hispanic immigrants and 79 percent for white natives.
* Among teenagers, who are at the greatest risk for getting into trouble, there is less difference – 70 percent of U.S.-born teenagers with immigrants parents live in a married household, compared to 68 percent for those with native parents.
* Like the birth records, the Census Bureau data show that neither immigrants nor natives can be said to be exemplary when it comes to marriage and children.