Friday, July 11, 2008

Our Hispanic baby boom

Fox News headlines its story: "Teen Pregnancy Rate Hits 15-Year High." Bet dollars to donuts that this misleading angle will be repeated in dozens of op-ed columns blaming the rise on abstinence education.

But before everyone hits the panic button and buys into the Planned Parenthood propaganda, let me point out that the recent rise in teen birth rates is entirely a function of the increased Hispanic population.

The federal report that is the basis for the Fox News story doesn't mention this fact in its summary, but look at the statistics from the report:
Teen Birth Rates 2006
(Per 1,000 females 15-19)
White* 26.6
Black* 64.3
Asian 16.7
Hispanic 83.0
(*Excluding Hispanics, who may be of any race.)
Compare these figures to 15 years earlier:
Teen Birth Rates 1991
(Per 1,000 females 15-19)
White* 43.4
Black* 114.8
Asian 27.3
Hispanic 104.6
(*Excluding Hispanics, who may be of any race.)
So, since 1991, the teen birth rate for whites and Asians has decreased 39%, while the black teen birth rate has decreased 44%, but the Hispanic teen birth rate has decreased only 21%.

The report describes the demographic impact of the continued Hispanic influx:
In 2007, 57 percent of children were White, non-Hispanic, 21 percent were Hispanic, 15 percent were Black, 4 percent were Asian, and 4 percent were of all other races (Figure 1).The percentage of children who are Hispanic has increased faster than that of any other racial or ethnic group, growing from 9 percent of the child population in 1980 to 21 percent in 2007.
In other words, the proportion of U.S. children in the demographic group with the highest teen birth rates has increased 133% since 1980. So, despite 39%-44% declines in teen births among other ethnic groups, we now see teen births on the rise again. The change in the birth rate is not due to a change in teen behavior, but a change in teen demographics.

What these statistics make clear is that, if U.S. officials seriously wanted to decrease the number of teen births, they could do so merely by enforcing its immigration laws, since a substantial share of the current Hispanic population is here illegally.

As I've written before, however, I am not a "teen pregnancy crisis" alarmist, and view such alarmists with suspicion.

UPDATE: Jessica Grose at Jezebel reports that this story -- also reported as news Friday by CNN and Bloomberg -- is based on statistics originally released nine months ago by the CDC.

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