October 10, 2012

Is this tiny improvement due to the sterling example of domestic morality set by the Democratic president compared to the Republican Lothario? No. Both Obama and Bush appear to have led similar family lives.

Are these contrasting trends due to specific Obama Administration policies aimed at preventing illegitimacy? Probably not. If you read the federal government’s statistical reports on births, you can see that the state has targeted the problem of teen births, not single births. The government’s policy of opposing teen births seems to be succeeding. The teen birth rate has been falling for most of the last two decades.

In contrast, the federal documents are scrupulously neutral on whether births within or without marriage are better. But this is not a liberal innovation of the Obama years, either. These reports were agnostic on “€œnonmarital births”€ during the Bush Administration, too.

Back in 1965, Daniel Patrick Moynihan submitted a memo to LBJ pointing out that the black illegitimacy rate was an alarming 22 percent. Merely for mentioning this, Moynihan was widely denounced. By 2011, the white rate was 29.1 percent, while blacks were up to 72.3 percent. Most worrisome, however, the fastest growing group, Latinos, whom Republican publicists have long described as family-values conservatives, saw 53.3 percent of their children born out of wedlock.

So what happened under Bush to undermine American family values?

My best approximation is that Bush’s housing boom and lack of immigration enforcement interacted in complex ways that were disastrous to the Republican Party’s short- and long-term health.

One insight is found in the opening scene of the Bush Era’s signature film, Idiocracy. Sitting next to her husband Trevor (138 IQ), Carol (141 IQ) explains, “€œThere’s no way we could have a child now, not with the market the way it is.”€ Meanwhile, Clevon (84 IQ) has impregnated much of his trailer park.

When home prices increase much faster than income, the prudent abstain from family formation. In contrast, the spurious prosperity of a debt bubble appears to ignite the animal spirits of the less thoughtful.

Several factors, such as Alan Greenspan’s lowering interest rates after 9/11, drove up home prices. But a particularly gratuitous blow to affordable family formation was Bush’s 2002-2004 campaign denouncing federal mortgage regulators”€™ traditional bias against zero-down-payment mortgages as racially unjust. He kicked off this crusade in the name of racial equality at his 2002 White House Conference on Increasing Minority Homeownership.

The increase in demand drove up prices, which allowed homeowners to take cash out to spend on after-market rims for their Hummers, and it sucked in construction workers from south of the border. Bush lit this fire under the housing market, so perhaps we should call his second term’s pseudo-prosperity the “€œBushlit Economy.”€

Immigration’s full role in causing the resulting Hispanic baby boom was not well explicated until the 2010 study by Emilio A. Parrado of the University of Pennsylvania’s Population Studies Center: How High is Hispanic/Mexican Fertility in the U.S.? Immigration and Tempo Considerations. Parrado pointed out that fertility is exceptionally high among new immigrants from Latin America, and then it declines over the decades.

This implies that people who can”€™t afford to have as many children as they want in their own country move to America to have more.

The year 2006, at the peak of the housing bubble, was remarkably deleterious for the GOP’s future. Despite seeming prosperity, the total number of births to married white women dropped 0.4% from 2005, while unmarried Hispanic women had 9.6% more children.

Parrado’s model explains the sharp decline in Latino fertility as the construction-jobs magnet deteriorated. The total fertility rate (expected children per lifetime) of Hispanic women rose steadily during the Bush Bubble but has been plummeting under Obama.

For Republicans, immigration is a double whammy: If the immigrants naturalize, they are likely to vote Democratic for tribal and self-interested economic reasons. And they are also likely to quickly give birth to numerous future Democratic voters/anchor babies. 

But this dual process also works in reverse: Cutting immigration also cuts fertility among those likely to vote against your party.

Thank God for the recession. What’s not to like? I mean, other than the lower toilet-paper sales?



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