Unwarranted hyperbole about Hispanic fertility rate


Some highlights of a nuanced talk in San Antonio recently on Hispanic demography by Emilio Parrado of the University of Pennsylvania:

The Hispanic fertility rate is higher than it has been for non-Hispanics but has never been such to have warranted all those fears of the dawning of the Third World on this side of the border. These fears supposed, wrongly, that immigrants are too dissimilar and that generations coming after fail to assimilate.

The Hispanic fertility rate, among both native-born and immigrant women, has been declining. Rates decline even more generation to generation in families started by immigrants. But the Hispanic fertility rate is significantly affected — upward — by levels of migration. And there is the real payday implication in this talk. If immigration can be correlated to economic growth, as many experts propose, the question before us is whether cutting off or limiting migration can lead us to look more like Japan, which shuns immigration and has been trying to shake off economic stagnation for the last several years.

“If immigration is a constant in economic growth and they don’t come from Mexico, where are they (going to come) from?,” Parrado asked. Or as Diana Furchgott-Roth of the Manhattan Institute explained in a report in February: “Immigrants increase economic efficiency by reducing labor shortages in low- and high-skilled markets because their educational backgrounds fill holes in the native-born labor market.”

It’s something to keep in mind as Congress mulls immigration reform. Aggressive pushback has already begun. It’s something to keep in mind also if the United States’ fertility rate ever mimics that of Japan. Some have noted that though the children of immigrants tend to fare better economically than their immigrant parents, the third generation stalls. This is not a failure of assimilation; it’s a sign that American upward mobility is broken and immigrant offspring are not immune.

Parrado came at the invitation of the University of Texas, San Antonio College of Public Policy, specifically its demography department. His talk was titled “Hispanic Fertility, Immigration and Race in the 21st Century.” He is a professor of sociology and is much published on Hispanic immigration and its consequences.

He is not saying that Hispanic population growth hasn’t been significant and won’t continue to be. He’s saying that to the extent it has been, it has been spurred substantially by immigration and that it never was so high overall to warrant all the hyperbole about the teeming hordes invading. Hispanic women on average have between 2.0 and 2.3 children. The replacement rate is 2.1.

Fertility rates for women of Mexican origin tend to be higher, for the U.S.-born among them lower than for immigrants. And there’s some evidence that, as with all other groups, many of these babies were unintended. As high as 16 percent for Hispanics. So, if those who rail about too many Hispanic babies are in the same camp as those trying to limit reproductive health services (Planned Parenthood clinics in the crosshairs just about everywhere these days), there’s a lot of cross-purpose activity going on there.

The bottom line is that Hispanics have more babies than others because, as a group, we tend to be younger. This means more women in child-bearing years. This is not so much something to fear as embrace if you care about economic growth. And the key here is not just education but telling new immigrants — by offering a path to citizenship — that they are indeed “us,” not the alien“them.”

© 2013 San Antonio Express-News

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