Monday, November 20, 2017
Politics

Jeb Bush's claim about immigrant birth rates is spot on

RECOMMENDED READING


The aging of America draws a lot of attention as the country tries to control the rising cost of health care and sustain critical programs such as Social Security. Jeb Bush, former Republican governor of Florida and potential 2016 presidential candidate, has a partial solution — promote immigration.

Bush, speaking at the Faith and Freedom Coalition Conference in Washington last month, made a pitch for immigration reform, saying America needs more new workers to help pay for retirees — "to rebuild the demographic pyramid" as he put it.

"Immigrants are more fertile," Bush said. "And they love families and they have more intact families, and they bring a younger population. Immigrants create an engine of economic prosperity."

Bush's reference to the fertility of immigrants stirred up a flurry of activity on Twitter and the comment sections of news websites. Some said his words were callous, some said he was simply speaking the truth.

The key here is understanding the meaning of the word "fertile." Fertility can mean the ability to have children, but it can also refer to the birth rate of a population. In context, Bush's comments clearly referred to the second definition. We contacted Bush's office; his spokesperson, Jaryn Emhoff, told us Bush was referring to birth rate.

On that front, there is no debate about the numbers. The Pew Research Center reported in 2012 that the birth rate among foreign-born women was nearly 50 percent higher than for U.S.-born women — 87.8 births per 1,000 women compared with 58.9 births per 1,000 women of prime child bearing age (15-44).

A major reason why immigrant birth rates are higher has to do with the age of new arrivals; as a group, they skew young, which means more of them are likely to be ready to start families. If you looked at a group of foreign-born women and the same number of U.S.-born women, all between 15 and 44 years old, you would find more women closer to 20 years old among the immigrants.

However, the Pew report noted an important trend. While birth rates for all women dropped between 2007 and 2010, it fell much faster among immigrant women. It declined by 14 percent compared with 6 percent for women born in America.

Analysts differ on what is driving this change, and the debate has some bearing on Bush's main interest in promoting immigration. The Pew researchers believe the data shows that these women are simply not having children. An alternative explanation is that there are fewer young immigrant women.

Emilio Parrado, a sociologist at the University of Pennsylvania, leans towards that one. Parrado said that the data tell him that the real reason for the drop in the immigrant birth rate is the recession. With fewer jobs in America, fewer people had the incentive to come.

"There are no new entrants," Parrado said. "The immigrants who are already in the U.S. have already completed their family size, so they are no longer having kids and rates are declining."

This debate has significant implications for Bush's argument on immigration. If birth rates for immigrants continue to drop, then immigration reform as a way to rebalance the country's age distribution is not simply a matter of creating a legal option for those who are already here. It requires a steady influx of newcomers.

We should note that it's not a good idea to lump all immigrants together. The National Center for Health Statistics reports that the country of origin can have a big impact on fertility rates. For mothers from Mexico, the rate is 77; that jumps by about a third for people from Central and South America. For mothers from Asia, the rate is 59 per 1,000.

In addition, rates can change from one generation to the next. A paper presented at the Population Association of America 2013 conference found significant shifts among first-, second- and third-generation immigrant families. In terms of the number of children a woman will have in her lifetime, fertility falls steadily among Asians, from 1.84 in the first generation to 1.3 by the third. In contrast, Hispanic women show a dramatic decline from the first to second generation — 2.41 to 1.9. But in the third generation, the number rises to 2.1. Still, Bush's words were on track, and we rate the statement Mostly True.

Comments
2nd woman accuses Sen. Al Franken of inappropriate touching

2nd woman accuses Sen. Al Franken of inappropriate touching

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A second woman has accused Minnesota Sen. Al Franken of inappropriate touching.Lindsay Menz tells CNN that Franken placed his hand on her bottom as they posed for a photo at the Minnesota State Fair in 2010, two years into Fran...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Before budget ax fell, Visit Florida executives ran up hefty travel bills

Before budget ax fell, Visit Florida executives ran up hefty travel bills

TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott’s tourism chiefs at Visit Florida spend a lot of public money taking trips to exotic places to promote Florida as a top worldwide destination.Four former top-level staff members at the state’s tourism promotion and its c...
Published: 11/20/17
As clock ticks on tax bill, White House signals a compromise

As clock ticks on tax bill, White House signals a compromise

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s budget director, Mick Mulvaney, said Sunday that the White House is willing to remove a contentious provision taking aim at the Affordable Care Act from the GOP tax overhaul plan if politically necessary, a move ...
Published: 11/19/17

Many Christian conservatives are backing Alabama’s Roy Moore

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Alabama’s Christian conservatives see Roy Moore as their champion. He has battled federal judges and castigated liberals, big government, gun control, Muslims, homosexuality and anything else that doesn’t fit the evangelical mold. ...
Published: 11/19/17
Senate ethics, relatively silent, could face busy year

Senate ethics, relatively silent, could face busy year

WASHINGTON — It’s been nearly six years since the Senate Ethics Committee conducted a major investigation of a sitting senator. Next year, the panel could be working nonstop, deciding the fate of up to three lawmakers, including two facing allegation...
Published: 11/18/17
Hillsborough seeks payback for ethics complaint but history shows that could be pricey

Hillsborough seeks payback for ethics complaint but history shows that could be pricey

TAMPA — Hillsborough County commissioners recently decided to go after the pocketbooks of several residents who filed unsuccessful ethics complaints against one of their colleagues.If history is any indicator, the maneuver is more likely to cost taxp...
Published: 11/17/17
Updated: 11/19/17
In struggling upstate New York cities, refugees vital to rebirth

In struggling upstate New York cities, refugees vital to rebirth

UTICA, N.Y.Pat Marino pulled into the shop on a cold, wet Thursday and stood close as a young mechanic with gelled-up hair and earrings lifted the truck and ducked underneath."You need a little bit more oil," the mechanic said."Five quarts wasn’t eno...
Published: 11/17/17
Updated: 11/18/17
As sex scandals topple the powerful: Why not Trump?

As sex scandals topple the powerful: Why not Trump?

WASHINGTON — "You can do anything," Donald Trump once boasted, speaking of groping and kissing unsuspecting women. Maybe he could, but not everyone can. The man who openly bragged about grabbing women’s private parts — but denied he really did so — w...
Published: 11/17/17
Allegations against Alabama’s Roy Moore dividing GOP women

Allegations against Alabama’s Roy Moore dividing GOP women

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Standing on the white marble steps of Alabama’s Capitol, Kayla Moore surrounded herself with two dozen other women Friday to defend husband Roy Moore against accusations of sexual misconduct that are dividing Republicans, and women...
Published: 11/17/17
Franken apologizes to woman who says he kissed, groped her

Franken apologizes to woman who says he kissed, groped her

WASHINGTON — Minnesota Sen. Al Franken personally apologized to the woman who has accused him of forcibly kissing her and groping her during a 2006 USO tour, saying he remembers their encounter differently but is "ashamed that my actions ruined that ...
Published: 11/17/17