2004 August 03 Tuesday
Heather Mac Donald: A New Latino Underclass

Another essay by Heather Mac Donald on immigration takes a look at the growing Latino underclass.

Hispanic youths, whether recent arrivals or birthright American citizens, are developing an underclass culture. Hispanic school dropout rates and teen birthrates are now the highest in the nation. Gang crime is exploding nationally - rising 50 percent from 1999 to 2002 - driven by the march of Hispanic immigration east and north across the country. Most worrisome, underclass indicators like crime and single parenthood do not improve over successive generations of Hispanics - they worsen.

Debate has recently heated up over whether Mexican immigration - unique in its scale and in other important ways - will defeat the American tradition of assimilation. The rise of underclass behavior among the progeny of Mexicans and other Central Americans must be part of that debate. There may be assimilation going on, but a significant portion of it is assimilation downward to the worst elements of American life.

So much for the much touted myth of Hispanic family values.

Many cops and youth workers blame the increase in gang appeal on the disintegration of the Hispanic family. The trends are worsening, especially for U.S.-born Hispanics. Nationally, single-parent households constituted 25 percent of all Hispanic households with minor children in 1980; by 2000, the proportion had jumped to 34 percent. The trends in teen parenthood the marker of underclass behavior - will almost certainly affect the crime and gang rate. Hispanics now outrank blacks for teen births.

Hispanics are failing to get educated.

On the final component of underclass behavior - school failure Hispanics are in a class by themselves. No other group drops out in greater numbers. In 2000, nearly 30 percent of Hispanics between the ages of 16 and 24 were high school dropouts nationwide, compared with about 13 percent of blacks and about 7 percent of whites.

The constant inflow of barely literate recent Mexican arrivals unquestionably brings down Hispanic education levels. But later American-born generations don't brighten the picture much. Mexican-Americans are assimilating not to the national schooling average, observed the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas this June, but to the dramatically lower "Hispanic average." In educational outcomes, concluded the bank, "Ethnicity matters."

No one knows why this is so. Every parent I spoke to said that she wanted her children to do well in school and go to college. Yet the message is often not getting across. "Hispanic parents are the kind of parents that leave it to others," explains an unwed Salvadoran welfare mother in Santa Ana. "We don't get that involved."

Heather also slams the pro-immigration argument that the Mexicans will retrace the Italian model of eventually rising educational attainment and economic success. The scale of Mexican immigration is too large and the problems span many generations past the initial immigrant generation. Samuel Huntington has pointed out that even into the 4th generation Hispanic educational attainment in America is extremely low. Meanwhile, East Asians are charging through academia with amazing achievements.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2004 August 03 12:51 PM  Immigration Societal Decay

John S Bolton said at August 3, 2004 11:23 PM:

Italian immigrants didn't start out that far down the scale. The comparison was made of them to the big-city middle and upper classes of that period, a century ago. Yet this ignores the large percentage of rural and small-town populations in the country at the same time, who had just as menial a profile of occupations. Carl Brigham's measures of immigrants' IQ's were very unrepresentative in his ellis island studies. These invoved testing children whose relatives were in quarantine because they had threatening diseases, or because they were about to be turned back for defective status, according to the rules of that time. Brigham also got a lot of points off the immigrants scores on his army alpha and beta tests by equating the two tests unfavorably for the illiterates, or English-language illiterates, who took the beta. In 1918, the testees were mostly 18 and 19 years old, and the S&E Europeans of those cohorts had immigrated mainly from 1907-1914, while other immigrants came in earlier, and were much less likely to move into ghettoes. They grew up in small towns in the interior, not the linguistic ghettoes of the cities very often. So the Italian immigrant IQ's would have been more like 100., even though Brigham said otherwise.

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