Friday, June 29, 2007

The Main Reason the Immigration Bill Went Down to Defeat

The main reason is that the facts presented here were never brought to the attention of the American people (HT: Jonah on the Corner).

According to the World Bank's 2007 Annual Development Indicators, in 1990 Mexico had a fertility rate of 3.3 children per female, but by 2005, that number had fallen by 36 percent to 2.1, which is the Zero Population Growth rate. That is an enormous decline in the number of Mexican infants per female. The large number of women currently in their reproductive years means that there are still quite a few babies, but as this group ages, the number of infants will decline sharply. If this trend toward fewer children per female continues, there being no apparent reason for it to cease, the number of young people in the Mexican population will decline significantly just when the number of elderly is rising. As labor markets in Mexico tighten and wage rates rise, far fewer Mexican youngsters will be interested in coming to the United States. Since our baby boomers will be retiring at the same time, we could face a severe labor shortage.

It's not just Mexico -- birth rates have been dropping rapidly all over Latin America. "This means less pressure on the United States from illegal immigrants from the entire area, not just from Mexico" explains Robert Dunn, Jr.

Indeed the drop is world wide: "Fertility rates are declining across the globe, but the change is particular striking to our south. The world fertility rate fell from 3.1 to 2.6 over the 1990-2005 period. The population bomb is becoming a fire cracker."

I've commented on the similarly astoundingly rapid drop in Mongolia's birth rate (4.5 to 2.2 in ten years) before (curiously no one answered the question in that post).

I have often retailed the statistic that the average Mexican woman has 2.7 children -- which has never failed to astound people I know. What will I say now that it is 2.1 (compared to 2.0 in the US)? I guess it will lose its shock value because no will believe me any more!

One of the most peculiar facts is that it now seems that Mexican-Americans have a higher birth rate than Mexicans in Mexico! A study says (pdf alert) that "the findings demonstrate dramatic decreases in the fertility rates in Mexico at the same time that continuous increases have been documented in the fertility rates of native-born Mexican-Americans in the US at younger ages."

The Corner's resident secular skeptic, Andrew Stuttaford, points out that this world wide crash in birthrates punches holes in the usual explanations for Europe's low birth rates (including social democracy?) Of course you could always say the Third World is simply imitating the first -- the more I see these crazy changes, the more I begin to believe that birth rates are more and more about fashion and image. Is the big family presented as attractive in glossy magazines? Or is the small family presented as modern and with it?

Anyway, it is funny that these figures were never presented in the debate on immigration. Because it is my anecdotal experience that judging from how astounded people worried about immigration are that Mexico does not have a high birth rate any more, I'd say that 75-80% of the opposition to immigration is driven by anxiety over the perceived birth rates of Latinas. Had President Bush or Senators Reid or McCain simply gone on prime time TV and stated that Mexico's birth rate is now 2.1, then most people would have said, "Oh, well I guess it turns out there isn't any crisis," forgot the issue, and let the elites make the laws they want.

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