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National Data | Immigration-Driven Demographic Shift Dooming GOP
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December 05, 2006, 04:00 AM
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"Demography is destiny in American politics." That was the stark message of two articles Peter Brimelow and I co-authored on long-term political prospects for the GOP. [See Electing a New People, and Swept Away] Our point was this: voting patterns in the United States correlate highly with ethnicity, altering little if at all—while the ethnic composition of U.S. population is shifting rapidly thanks to the current policy of mass non-traditional immigration and declining fertility rates of whites.

Implication: A shift in the political balance from Red States to Blue States is only a matter of time.

The 2006 election was further proof. The GOP`s effort to woo Hispanic votes, the success of which was anyway much exaggerated in 2004, stalled.

In percentage terms, the leftward shift was substantially larger among Hispanics than other groups. Here are the 2006 GOP vote shares by race:

  • 51 percent of Whites, down 7 points from 2004

 

  • 10 percent of Blacks, down 1 point from 2004

 

  • 37 percent of Asians,  down 7 points from 2004

 

  • 30 percent of Hispanics, down 10 points from 2004

However, as Steve Sailer notes, the defection of white voters hurt the GOP far more than the loss of Hispanics. Nearly eight of every ten (79 percent) of voters in 2006 was white. Hispanics accounted for just 8 percent of all voters. Had not a single Hispanic voted Republican, the resulting vote loss would have amounted to a fraction—58 percent to be exact—of the votes that the GOP actually lost from the 7 percentage point decline among whites.

Eventually—in a post Iraq era, perhaps—whites will return to the GOP in their former numbers. Hispanics, which some argue are a "natural" Republican constituency because they are socially conservative, may reprise their 40 percent GOP vote share of 2004.

Even if these happy trends were to materialize, however, a GOP victory will become impossible within a few election cycles. That`s how fast demographics and immigration are eroding the political clout of Bush`s core constituency while elevating that of Democratic-leaning minorities.

For starters, look at fertility rate data for 2005:

Total Fertility Rate

(Expected lifetime births for women aged 15-44)

Race/ethnicity of mother

2004

2005

% Change

All races

2.046

2.054

0.39%

Non-Hispanic white

1.847

1.844

-0.16%

Non-Hispanic black

2.020

2.019

-0.05%

Asian

1.898

1.890

-0.42%

Hispanic

2.825

2.877

1.84%

Source: National Center for Health Statistics

The total fertility rate (TFR) analyzes current birth rate trends to predict the number of children that will be born to mothers of various races and ethnicities over their lifetimes. As seen in the table, TFR is substantially higher for Hispanics than for other races, and the gap is widening.

The "replacement" rate TFR—2.1 births per women—is considered the value at which a group can exactly replace itself over the course of a generation. Fertility rates of non-Hispanic white women are 12 percent below the replacement rate, and are expected to remain low in future decades, eventually shrinking the white population. 

Implication: even if immigration were suddenly to stop, Hispanics will continue to represent an ever-larger share of the U.S. population.

Of course, immigration is not expected to stop. Even the Census Bureau, which has consistently underestimated Hispanic immigration, is projecting a nearly three-fold increase in the Hispanic population by 2050:

Projected U.S. Population by Race and Hispanic Origin, 2000-2050

 

2000

2020

2050

 

Population (in thousands):

Total

282,125

335,805

419,854

White, non-Hispanic

195,729

205,936

210,283

Black alone

35,818

45,365

61,361

Hispanic

35,622

59,756

102,560

Asian alone

10,684

17,988

33,430

Other

4,272

6,760

12,220

 

% of total population:

Total

100.0%

100.0%

100.0%

White, non-Hispanic

69.4

61.3

50.1

Black alone

12.7

13.5

14.6

Hispanic

12.6

17.8

24.4

Asian alone

  3.8

  5.4

 8.0

Other

  1.5

  2.0

 2.9

Source: Census Bureau, Table 1a.

The political implications are sobering. In 2006, for example, the GOP garnered about 45 percent of the total House vote. If the GOP vote share remains at 2006 levels for each racial group, and the racial distribution of voters moves in proportion to the Census Bureau`s population projections, the Republican share will decline as follows: (Table 1):

  • 2010: 43.3 percent

 

  • 2020: 42.4 percent

 

  • 2030: 41.5 percent

 

  • 2040: 40.4 percent

 

  • 2050: 39.4 percent

If the GOP should be fortunate enough to reprise its 2004 share of the white and ethnic vote, it will still sink inexorably to minority status sometime in the 2020s. (See Table 1.)

And even this may be overly optimistic. Consider, for example, that in 2004 only 60 percent of voting age Hispanics were citizens, compared to 96 percent of non-Hispanics. This implies that passage of a guest worker amnesty could increase the number of Hispanics eligible to vote by 50 percent.

If recent history is a guide, amnesty will also raise Hispanic fertility rates.  The link between amnesty and fertility is detailed in a study by the Public Policy Institute of California. Here are the relevant passages:

"Between 1987 and 1991, total fertility rates for foreign-born Hispanics [in California] increased from 3.2 to 4.4 [expected babies per woman over her lifetime]. This dramatic rise was the primary force behind the overall increase in the state`s total fertility rate during this period. Were it not for the large increase in fertility among Hispanic immigrants, fertility rates in California would have increased very little between 1987 and 1991.

"Why did total fertility rates increase so dramatically for Hispanic immigrants? First, the composition of the Hispanic immigrant population in California changed as a result of the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) of 1986. In California alone, 1.6 million unauthorized immigrants applied for amnesty (legal immigrant status) under this act. The vast majority were young men, and many were agricultural workers who settled permanently in the United States. Previous research indicates that many of those granted amnesty were joined later by spouses and relatives in the United States... As a result, many young adult Hispanic women came to California during the late 1980s. We also know that unauthorized immigrants tend to have less education than other immigrants and that they are more likely to come from rural areas. Both characteristics are associated with high levels of fertility. As a result, changes in the composition of the Hispanic immigration population probably increased fertility rates.

"Another possible reason for the sudden increase in fertility rates for Hispanic immigrants is also related to IRCA. Because many of those granted amnesty and their spouses had been apart for some time, their reunion in California prompted a "catch-up" effect in the timing of births..." [Understanding the Future of Californians` Fertility: The Role of Immigrants, by Laura E. Hill and Hans P. Johnson 2002( PDF)]

As California goes...

Bottom line: the GOP is committing suicide with its immigration policy. It has a short time to rescue itself—by cutting non-traditional immigration, eliminating the illegal population through deportation and attrition because of changed incentives, maybe even allowing in immigrants who are more likely to vote Republican (why should Democrats have all the fun?).  Otherwise, it`s toast—and the historic American nation along with it.

Edwin S. Rubenstein (email him) is President of ESR Research Economic Consultants in Indianapolis.