NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


January 23, 2007

A surge in the birth rate among unwed Hispanics is creating a new U.S. underclass, says Heather Mac Donald, a senior fellow with the Manhattan Institute.

The dimensions of the recent Hispanic baby boom are startling:

  • Hispanic women have the highest unmarried birthrate in the country -- over 3 times that of whites and Asians, and nearly 1.5 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, compared with 28 children for unmarried women, 22 for unmarried Asian women and 6 for unmarried black women.
  • Some 45 percent of all Hispanic births occur outside of marriage, compared with 24 percent for whites and 15 percent of Asians; only the percentage for blacks -- 68 percent -- is higher, but they are not facing the same population boom.

This boom, along with traditional Hispanic values like tight-knit extended families and starting families young and expanding them quickly are working to create a new underclass dependent on welfare, says Mac Donald: 

  • Hispanics now dominate the federal Women, Infants and Children free food program; Hispanic enrollment grew more than 25 percent from 1996 to 2002,
  • In contrast, black enrollment dropped 12 percent and white enrollment dropped 6.5 percent.

Yet for all these markers of social dysfunction, fatherless Hispanic families differ from the black underclass in one significant area: Many of the mothers and the absent fathers work, even despite growing welfare use.  How these two value systems -- a lingering work ethic and underclass mating norms -- will interact in the future is anyone's guess, says Mac Donald.  But it certainly has the potential to severely strain the social fabric.

Source: Heather Mac Donald, "Family Values," Dallas Morning News, January 21, 2007.


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