Sunday, August 24, 2008

California leads nation in immigrant births

Good comment made by Jean Ross in reminding researchers that undocumented parents are unable to receive cash-assistance in California. This is a major human rights issue since access to this assistance may help to ensure that children are being nourished.

What should also be added is that those families who do receive aid generally inform the state poverty numbers highlighting how flawed those are likely to be. There are many more families (many composed of US-born children) living in poverty throughout California. Again, a human rights issue...


By Mike Swift
Mercury News
Article Launched: 08/19/2008 01:30:21 AM PDT

A new and more nuanced national report about fertility shows a significantly higher share of babies are born to immigrants in California than in any other state, even as a lower-than-average share of the state's births are to poor women and women on welfare.

Nationally, the U.S. Census report shows that more American women are skipping motherhood or are waiting longer to have children, a trend already evident in California, where birthrates to women in their 40s have tripled the past two decades.

"Women are delaying their childbearing until they complete their educations," said Jane Lawler Dye, a family demographer with the Bureau and author of the report, which is based on population data collected in 2006.

By drawing from a broader population sample than in the past, the new fertility study looks at the differences in birth rates between Hispanic women of succeeding generations. It also examines the wide variation in fertility among the states.

While women who had given birth in the previous year in California were the most likely to be immigrants, new mothers in Mississippi were most likely to be poor. New mothers in Iowa were the most likely to be working, while those in Texas were the most likely to lack a high school diploma.

"This is the first time we've looked at a lot of these characteristics," Dye said. "We've never shown this much detail."

About 41 percent of births in California in 2005 and 2006 were to immigrant mothers, according to the new report, a significant number considering that immigrants account for more than one-third of births in only one other state - Nevada, where 34 percent of births were to immigrants. In part, California's high share of immigrant births reflects the fact that immigrants make up a larger slice of California's total population than in any other state, demographers said.

While California had higher than average rates of new mothers without a high school education and who were immigrants, the Golden State had lower-than-average rates of mothers who were poor, or who were on public assistance.

"That to me is counter-intuitive because a large share of our poor population is Latino and they tend to have higher birth rates," said Jean Ross, executive director of the California Budget Project, a Sacramento organization that advocates for the poor and middle class.

One explanation, she said, might be that many Latino immigrant families "tend to be two-parent families, and overwhelmingly working, and because if you're undocumented you're not eligible for cash-assistance programs," she said.

Caroline Danielson, a research fellow with the Public Policy Institute of California, said California has restrictions that prevent families from receiving additional benefits if they have another child while receiving welfare benefits. But she noted that about half of the state's welfare caseload are children whose parents or caregivers are not eligible for aid, in some cases because they are illegal immigrants.

Many Californians may be worried about the environmental and congestion costs of immigration-fueled population growth. But University of Southern California demographer Dowell Myers argues that they should consider the alternative.

"Everywhere I look, people miss the point that the [Baby] Boomers are going to retire, and who's going to fill their shoes? And who's going to buy your house? Nobody has figured that out," Myers said. "Thank God somebody is having babies."

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