Census Shenanigans

By Linda Thom
Published in The Social Contract
Volume 6, Number 4 (Summer 1996)
Issue theme: "The battle for official English"
http://www.thesocialcontract.com/artman2/publish/tsc0604/article_560.shtml



In August 1995, the U.S. Census Bureau released a short report entitled, The Foreign-Born Population 1994. Additional data such as child poverty statistics are available on the Internet (www.census.gov). No Census Bureau data in print or available electronically give the numbers of U.S. citizen children living in households with foreign-born parents. This aberration prohibits the understanding of the poverty and population impacts resulting from immigration. This is a significant problem because the foreign-born have very high fertility rates.

Almost half (46%) the nation's immigrants are Hispanic origin with the majority originating from Mexico. In California, the fertility of foreign-born women is double that of native women and Hispanic, foreign-born women have over four children per woman (California Dept. of Finance, Heim and Austin). Moreover, the lower the educational attainment of the mothers, the higher are their fertility rates.

Child poverty data illustrate the distortion caused by not including citizen children. Table 1 shows child poverty data from the 1994 Current Population Report available electronically from the Census Bureau.

Table 1

U.S. Childhood Poverty

(Numbers in thousands)

Age of Children

Under 5

5 to 15

16 to 17

Total poor children

Total above poverty

Total pop. under 18

Poverty Rate All Children

5,367

9,065

1,295

15,727

53,564

69,291

23% Native Born

5,221

8,372

1,137

14,730

52,109

66,838

22% All Immigrants Under 18

146

692

159

997

1,457

2,454

41% The poverty rate for foreign-born children is 41% as compared to a 22% poverty rate for native-born children. Looking at the absolute number of poor children one could believe that the 41% poverty rate for foreign children is not a problem because there are so few of them. There are only 146,000 foreign-born children under five years old living in the United States. No problem, right? Wrong. Any children who were born in the United States to foreign parents are not included in these numbers. The Census Bureau has systematically understated the impact of immigration by shifting the U.S. citizen children of immigrants into the totals for native-born families.

To further demonstrate other distortions caused by Census Bureau practices, Table 2 summarizes poverty data from the 1990 Census (United States Summary, Table 5, Income and Poverty Status of Hispanic Origin Groups, Mexican Origin).

Table 2

Poverty Status of Mexican Origin Children Under 5 Years

Poor families w/ children under 5

Related poor children under 5

Average children under 5 per family All Persons

104,461

513,242

4.91 Native Born

51,977

467,717

9 Foreign Born

52,484

45,525

0.87 According to the Census data, the 51,977 native-born, Mexican origin poor families have 467,717 children under 5 years or 9 children under 5 years per family; whereas, the foreign-born, Mexican origin poor families have .87 children per family. Something is wrong - it is quite impossible for families to have an average of nine children under five years of age. Obviously, the native-born children of foreign families have been shifted to the native-born families. Further, if there is at least 1 child under 5 in the 52,484 foreign-born, poor families, how could there be only 45,525 "related" poor children under 5 in foreign families or an average of less than 1 per family?

The Census Bureau makes it even more difficult to sort out because the children under 5 are not specifically listed. One must subtract the children aged 5 through 17 from all children under 18 to arrive at the number of children under 5. Further, the children are enumerated under native-born or foreign-born families and labeled "related" children. But to whom are they "related"? The U.S.-citizen children living in foreign families are not "related" to U.S. families but that is where the Census Bureau has included them.

Of course, many U.S. citizen children are older than 5. The number of U.S. citizen children of immigrant parents is immense. Table 3 shows the births to native-born and foreign-born women in California (California Dept. of Health).

Table 3

Annual Births in California by Birthplace of Mother

1989

1990

1991

1992

1993

1994

Total

Avg/year Total Annual Births

569,308

611,666

609,228

600,838

584,483

567,034

3,542,557

590,426 Foreign-born

Mothers

215,726

250,315 261,158

266,830

261,673

251,869

1,507,571

251,262 U.S.-Born

Mothers

353,582

361,351

348,070

334,008

322,810

315,165

2,034,986

339,164 Between 1989 and 1994, just six years, foreign-born women have given birth to over 1.5 million children in California. Presumably these children live in immigrant families with their foreign-born siblings who have a 41% poverty rate. This is one state's births in six years. The national numbers must be staggering but the public will never know because the Census Bureau does not publish them, provide them electronically, or appear to keep any records on them.

The impacts are significant. Whether the children are poor or not, they will go to school and California has the most over-crowded classrooms in the nation. Between 1989 and 1996, California has spent an additional $6 billion on K-12 public schools to try to keep pace with the increased enrollment. In this period, 7 out of 10 of the added students did not speak English (California Dept. of Education). Poor or not, these children take baths, flush toilets, have their clothes washed, generate trash and do all the ordinary things other kids do. They grow up and have children of their own.

Neither California nor the nation needs any more people. When the Census Bureau reports that 1 of every 4 people in California is an immigrant that does not begin to reveal the enormity of the problem. The American people need to know how many citizen children there are and how poor they are but the folks at the Census Bureau will probably continue their current practices in the next census in the year 2000 because so few people know the truth. Most of those who know the truth work for the Census Bureau and they aren't telling. □

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