Sunday, November 26, 2017

How to Import Child-Poverty

Surely, it’s not good news. America has a child poverty problem. It’s not just that we have a larger percentage of poor children than Norway or the Netherlands. We have more child poverty than Russia.

Kay Hymowitz presents the case in the City Journal:

Articles about America’s high levels of child poverty are a media evergreen. Here’s a typical entry, courtesy of the New York Times’s Eduardo Porter: “The percentage of children who are poor is more than three times as high in the United States as it is in Norway or the Netherlands. America has a larger proportion of poor children than Russia.” That’s right: Russia.

What has caused the increase in child poverty? You guessed it: immigration. Not immigration of educated Asians, but increased immigration from Latin America.

Hymowitz continues:

The lousy child-poverty numbers should come with another qualifying asterisk, pointing to a very American reality. Before Europe’s recent migration crisis, the United States was the only developed country consistently to import millions of very poor, low-skilled families, from some of the most destitute places on earth—especially from undeveloped areas of Latin America—into its communities, schools, and hospitals. Let’s just say that Russia doesn’t care to do this—and, until recently, Norway and the Netherlands didn’t, either. Both policymakers and pundits prefer silence on the relationship between America’s immigration system and poverty, and it’s easy to see why. The subject pushes us headlong into the sort of wrenching trade-offs that politicians and advocates prefer to avoid.

She continues: we have been importing child poverty:

Here’s the problem in a nutshell: you can allow mass low-skilled immigration, which many on the left and the right—and probably most poverty mavens—consider humane and quintessentially American. But if you do, pursuing the equally humane goal of substantially reducing child poverty becomes a lot harder.

More poor Hispanic children means more child poverty:

Perhaps the most uncomfortable truth about these figures, and surely one reason they don’t often show up in media accounts, is that a large majority of America’s poor immigrant children—and, at this point, a large fraction of all its poor children—are Hispanic (see chart below). The U.S. started collecting separate poverty data on Hispanics in 1972. That year, 22.8 percent of those originally from Spanish-language countries of Latin America were poor. The percentage hasn’t risen that dramatically since then; it’s now at 25.6 percent. But because the Hispanic population in America quintupled during those years, these immigrants substantially expanded the nation’s poverty rolls. Hispanics are now the largest U.S. immigrant group by far—and the lowest-skilled. Pew estimates that Hispanics accounted for more than half the 22-million-person rise in the official poverty numbers between 1972 and 2012. Robert Samuelson of the Washington Post found that, between 1990 and 2016, Hispanics drove nearly three-quarters of the increase in the nation’s poverty population from 33.6 million to 40.6 million.

The problem is cultural. While certain immigrant groups, the Chinese and the Vietnamese, value education, Hispanic parents do not. They do not talk with their children as much and do not much care about academic achievement. In an economy where low skilled jobs are vanishing and where social mobility depends on a higher level of education these cultural characteristics damage children’s future prospects. Unless, of course, these children do the only jobs that seem open to those less-educated—criminal enterprise.

Hymowitz writes:

According to a study in the Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences, Hispanic parents don’t talk and read to their young children as much as typical middle-class parents, who tend to applaud their children’s attempts at self-expression, do; differences in verbal ability show up as early as age two. Hispanic parents of low-achieving students, most of whom also voiced high academic hopes for their kids, were still “happy with their children’s test scores even when the children performed poorly.” Their children tended to be similarly satisfied. Unlike many other aspiring parents, Hispanics are more reluctant to see their children travel to magnet schools and to college. They also become parents at younger ages. Though Hispanic teen birthrates have fallen—as they have for all groups, apart from American Indians—they remain the highest in the nation.

One would like to think that less educated Hispanics can overcome their handicaps by gaining more education. And yet, after a second generation has managed to raise itself through education, we often see that the third generation reverts to the cultural norm.

The immigration question is not just about any old immigrants. The Trump administration wants to admit immigrants who have a high education level. Immigration activists seem to believe that all people are equal and that mere exposure to American education can raise everyone and make every immigrant child into a world beater.

Hymowitz concludes:

Outcomes like these suggest that immigration optimists have underestimated the difficulty of integrating the less-educated from undeveloped countries, and their children, into advanced economies. A more honest accounting raises tough questions. Should the United States, as the Trump administration is proposing, and as is already the case in Canada and Australia, pursue a policy favoring higher-skilled immigration? Or do we accept higher levels of child poverty and lower social mobility as a cost of giving refuge and opportunity to people with none? If we accept such costs, does it even make sense to compare our child-poverty numbers with those of countries like Denmark or Sweden, which have only recently begun to take in large numbers of low-skilled immigrants?


Ares Olympus said...
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Ares Olympus said...

May be the The New Colossus on the Statue of Liberty no longer applies like it did 150 years ago "Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free..." We're no longer a largely agrarian society where subsistence farming can raise a family.

I also recall that the first effect of the NAFTA agreement was to export cheap agricultural food imports from America, leading to food prices dropping to the point that subsistence farmers of Mexico couldn't make a living, and they were forced to move their families to the cities where their income could be higher, but their cost of living increased more. And I suppose the migration to the U.S., legally and undocumented also was a search for opportunity, and low skill work means cheap labor for food harvesting that can't yet be done by machines, and still again, a land where the cost of living is higher, so people doing "needed work" still can't earn an income to raise children above poverty.

So maybe the answer is that we need to keep low-skill laborers out of the country, and then crops will go unpicked until growers are willing to pay enough that domestic workers are willing to do the necessary work.

In any case, it seems unlikely that uneducated parents who do such menial work have no aspirations for their children to find better work. The opposite seems more likely.

Ares Olympus said...

TW, do I get to be a Leftist? You'll have to tell my friends. I guess neo-Mathusians can be on the left and the right.

Anyway if Leftists believe primarily in family planning and the equal access to education for girls and Rightists believe primarily in borders and guns to protect ourselves from the illiterate masses, I'd put at least as much money on the first as the second. And I am glad the new Pope said people no longer need to breed like rabbits, and Latin America is largely Catholic.