- The Washington Times - Monday, April 23, 2007

Immigrant parents aren’t driving the increase in unwed childbearing in America, but they are contributing to it, according to a report released today by a group that monitors immigration issues.

This contradicts the views of many Americans, including President Bush, who say immigrants have “strong family values” and will infuse them into American society, said Steven A. Camarota, author of the study for the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS).

According to census and birth data, a third of immigrants have children out of wedlock, just like native-born Americans, said Mr. Camarota.

“It would be wrong to blame immigrants for the breakdown in American families, just as it would be wrong to think they will help solve the problem,” he said. “This is especially true for Hispanic immigrants, a large and rapidly growing share of whom are having children out of wedlock.”

Mr. Camarota is expected to review the CIS findings this morning at the National Press Club with Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation and Nicholas N. Eberstadt of the American Enterprise Institute.

Generally speaking, childbearing “is not the only indicator of strong family values,” said Charles Kamasaki, executive vice president of the National Council of La Raza, an advocacy group for Hispanic Americans. “You see lots of other indicators people living in multigenerational households, people not relying on public benefits to care for their elderly but keeping them in their home. So I would reject the notion that is the only appropriate indicator” of family values.

Regarding Hispanic immigrants and fertility, Mr. Kamasaki said that in less than three generations, Hispanics begin to reflect the U.S. fertility rate of 2.1 children per couple.

“So clearly there’s an acculturation factor taking place.

“There’s also a demographic factor,” he said. Immigrants tend to be considerably younger than the rest of the population. So “just statistically, you tend to have many more folks in the childbearing-age cohorts, men and women,” which will lead to higher birthrates.

The CIS study shows that from 1980 to 2003, both immigrant and native-born populations had similar increases in the portion of births that are out of wedlock. Immigrant unwed births rose from 13 percent to 32 percent, while native-born unwed births rose from 19 percent to 35 percent.

There were 607,393 unwed births to natives in 1980 and 1,105,404 births in 2003, an 82 percent increase. During the same time, the number of babies born to single immigrant mothers rose sixfold, from 44,764 to 298,332.

The report concluded that most of the children born out of wedlock in American are native-born, but immigration has “clearly contributed” to the tally.

The CIS study calls for more programs to reduce unwed childbearing in immigrant populations. It also recommends that immigration rules prefer educated people, because they’re less likely to have children out of wedlock.

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