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Millions of words written about the Kennedy-Bush amnesty legislation that the powers-that-be almost succeeded in sliding by the public last summer. But it has almost never been mentioned in the press that the last amnesty, in 1986, set off a massive baby boom among Hispanic immigrants in California. This demographic pig-in-the-python nearly choked the public school system.
The non-partisan Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) has just released a new study by demographer Hans P. Johnson entitled "Birth Rates in California" [PDF] demonstrating what immigration has done to California—and thus what it portends for America as a whole.
A PPIC graph shows that the expected "total fertility rate" (TFR) or expected lifetime number of babies per woman in her childbearing years was sharply affected by the 1986 amnesty.
Johnson explains what happened:
"In the mid-1980s, fertility rates for Latinas [about 2.6 babies per woman] were only slightly higher than for other ethnic groups, but the increase in fertility rates in the late 1980s was much more dramatic among Latinas, so that by 1991 the total fertility rate for Latinas had reached 3.5 children per woman. … This increase is likely associated with the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986... One consequence was that many women from Mexico migrated to the United States to join their spouses or partners who had been granted legal residency."
This baby boom among amnestied illegal immigrants led to severe overcrowding of California public schools. Many shifted to dysfunctional year-round schedules to spread the growing student load over the entire 12 months. The notorious "B Track" for example, starts in early August, then takes a couple months off in the fall, then a couple of months off in the spring, and ends the school year in late July. It then immediately starts the next grade the following Monday.
Among immigrant Latinas, the total fertility rate peaked at 4.4 in 1990, four years after the amnesty, then dropped to 3.2 in 1999, but has since climbed back to 3.7 in 2005.
(In contrast, American-born white California women have a total fertility rate of only 1.6.)
The low average education level of the parents of these new Californians is not promising, which explains a lot about why the Golden State has fallen behind traditionally weak-testing states like Tennessee, Kentucky, and Louisiana on the federal school achievement exam. Across all races, Johnson estimates:
"… the total fertility rate for women in California with a graduate degree was 1.8, compared to 2.9 for women who had not graduated from high school."
He also notes:
"The higher rate among Mexican immigrants in California today is at least partly, if not wholly, due to the origins of immigrants within Mexico. Most immigrants to California from Mexico come from rural areas and small towns, areas where educational attainment levels are low and fertility rates are much higher than the national levels."
But note this: the PPIC report also observes that
"Yet the total fertility rate of immigrants from Mexico in California is far higher than the overall fertility rate in Mexico, which stands at only 2.4 children per woman."
At our expense. Their arrival has driven up California`s home prices and taxes and damaged its public schools, but, hey, it`s still better than Mexico.
In response, the natives of California who want more children than California`s decay allows them are either leaving the state or delaying having children until they can afford them.
Which often turns out to be never. Among US-born women of all races in California, 26% are still childless at age 40-44, versus 20% nationally. (The rate for American-born white women is certainly higher.)
Last-chance fertility among native women in their 40s has skyrocketed. Johnson writes:
"Fertility rates for U.S.-born women ages 40 to 44 have increased almost threefold since 1982."
Having a baby in your 40s increases the chance of birth defects, such as Downs Syndrome, and of having twins or triplets. And babies are cute, but exhausting, especially for an older mom.
"For older mothers, those 40 and over, the rate of twin births has increased almost threefold, from 2.5 percent of all births to 7.4 percent. Rates are particularly high for older white women, increasing to 11.1 percent from 3.1 percent over the past 15 years."
The total fertility rate actually underestimates the overall impact of immigration on the population. Hispanic generation times are shorter than among American-born whites and Asians, who are delaying childbirth almost to the biological limits. The peak fertility for Hispanics is from ages 20-24, compared to 30-34 for whites and Asians.
Among American-born Hispanics, the TFR is "only" 2.2, but that`s 38% higher than for American-born whites. Further, it`s up from under 2.0 in the mid-1980s. So the ethnic gap isn`t narrowing.
Finally, the very high fertility of the first generation of Hispanic immigrants means there are more Hispanic second-generation mothers around to have 2.2 babies each.
This phenomenon of "demographic momentum" that keeps the population growing for a half century or so after replacement level fertility is reached is little understood. But consider it from a grandparent`s perspective.
Imagine two neighbors comparing notes on who has more grandchildren. Mr. North, who lives on the north side of the street, says, "My children each have two children."
Mr. South replies, "So do mine."
Mr. North exclaims, "Then you must have four grandchildren, just like me."
Mr. South laughs, "No, I have eight grandchildren! See, you only had two children, so you have four grandchildren. But I had four children, so I have eight grandchildren."
Among immigrant whites, the TFR is 2.0 because, according to the PPIC report,
"A substantial share of white immigrants are from the Middle East (western Asia) and North Africa, where fertility rates tend to be higher than in the United States."
It`s common for pundits to opine that we`re lucky that immigrants are keeping the economy afloat by having so many children because whites just can`t hack it anymore.
But it`s not a racial weakness—according to the PPIC, the problem is even more severe among American-born Asians:
"U.S.-born Asians have among the lowest fertility rates in the world, with only 1.4 children per woman in 2005."
The fundamental problem: California isn`t working for its American-born citizens anymore.
So, why Californicate the rest of the country?[Steve Sailer (email him) is founder of the Human Biodiversity Institute and movie critic for The American Conservative. His website www.iSteve.blogspot.com features his daily blog.]