Sunday, April 19, 2009

Confusion about values

Linda Chavez, a conservative columnist, but not one that is always towing the party line, who uses rational thought (sometimes) instead of ideology in her writing, makes a pitch for reasonable immigration reform based on family values. Column is here.

This is her concluding paragraph:

The fact that so many illegal immigrants are intertwined with American
citizens or legal residents, either as spouses or parents, should give pause to
those who'd like to see all illegal immigrants rounded up and deported or their
lives made so miserable they leave on their own. A better approach would allow
those who have made their lives here, established families, bought homes, worked
continuously and paid taxes to remain after paying fines, demonstrating English
fluency, and proving they have no criminal record. Such an approach is as much
about supporting family values as it is granting amnesty.

Ms. Chavez has made her mark as a somewhat family values warrior. She cites statistics from the Pew Hispanic Center to bolster her stand. The stand I agree with completely. But the implications, that because illegal immigrants have among the lowest rates of divorce and single (especially female headed households) represents millions of people who value family values the way she and her family values warriors another example of ideology getting in the way of reality.

Consider some of her reasoning and facts: "Nearly half of illegal immigrant households consist of two-parent families with children, and 73 percent of these children were born here and are therefore U.S. citizens."

And "One of the chief social problems afflicting this country is the breakdown in the traditional family. But among immigrants, the two-parent household is alive and well."

Okay now here is where Ms. Chavez either displays here ignorance of demographics (likely) or her wish that her ideology be confirmed;

Only 21 percent of native households are made up of two parents living with
their own children. Among legal immigrants, the percentage of such households
jumps to 35 percent. But among the illegal population, 47 percent of households
consist of a mother, a father and their children.

Only 21 percent of native households in the US are made up of two parents living with their own children. Sounds scary doesn't it, this makes it sound like only 21 percent of households with kids are made up of two parents living with their own children. But, according to the 2000 Census, there were just over 105 million households in the US. Only 68% of those households are "family" households (remember, some households are made up of people just living together with no kids, living alone, 20 somethings with roommates, etc). Now of these family households, which include married couples without kids or an adult child living with an aging parent, of the total, only 32.8% have kids under 18. So, only about a third of all households have minor children living in them. Now, married couple families with own children make up, in 2000, 23.5%. Now, there is your scary number. Okay, but of all families with children, 71.8% are in married couple families with own children.

I am not comparing exactly the same things here. I don't have the disaggregated data that perhaps Pew is citing. But, the basic problem here is that Pew is looking at illegal and legal immigrants with kids, nearly 47%, according to Pew as cited by Chavez, are the "proper" family, while legal immigrants, not quite as good, but better than 21% of the native born, except, the numbers don't add up, the 71.8% I cite, is reflective of all families, but the vast difference in the number of native born versus immigrant born families, could not produce the 71.8% number, if the native born were only 21% of all families with children.

In short, if you campare the right numbers, native born families might be even more likely to have the "proper" family than the immigrant family.

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