in the Weekly Standard:
…All of the research, however, indicates that in recent years the fertility rate of Hispanic Americans has been moving downward faster than it has for any other ethnic group.
Last week the Pew Center reported that from 2007 to 2010 America’s birth rate dropped by 8 percent. The decline was relatively modest for native-born Americans—only a 6 percent drop. But the immigrant birth rate dropped by 14 percent. And the birth rate for Mexican-born immigrants dropped by 23 percent. These declines were outsized, but they fit the larger trend. From 1990 to 2007, the Mexican-born birth rate had already dropped by 26 percent.
None of this is meant to predict that by such and such year there will be exactly so many Hispanic Americans. Social science has limits, and they are even nearer than you think. But when you look at the assumptions underlying the predictions for America’s Hispanic future, they’re even more uncertain than usual—and in fact are already a decade or so out of step with reality. America’s Great Hispanic Future is probably being oversold. And possibly by quite a bit.
You don’t hear nearly as much about the rise of single voters, despite the fact that they represent a much more significant trend. Only a few analysts, such as Ruy Teixera, James Carville, and Stanley Greenberg, have emphasized how important singletons were to President Obama’s reelection. Properly understood, there is far less of a “gender” gap in American politics than people think. Yes, President Obama won “women” by 11 points (55 percent to 44 percent). But Mitt Romney won married women by the exact same margin. To get a sense of how powerful the marriage effect is, not just for women but for men, too, look at the exit polls by marital status. Among nonmarried voters—people who are single and have never married, are living with a partner, or are divorced—Obama beat Romney 62-35. Among married voters Romney won the vote handily, 56-42.
Far more significant than the gender gap is the marriage gap. And what was made clear in the 2012 election was that the cohorts of unmarried women and men are now at historic highs—and are still increasing. This marriage gap—and its implications for our political, economic, and cultural future—is only dimly understood.
Americans have been wedded to marriage for a very long time. Between 1910 and 1970, the “ever-married rate”—that is, the percentage of people who marry at some point in their lives—went as high as 98.3 percent and never dipped below 92.8 percent. Beginning in 1970, the ever-married number began a gradual decline so that by 2000 it stood at 88.6 percent. …
The economic effects are similarly unclear. On the one hand, judging from the booming economic progress in highly single countries such as Singapore and Taiwan, singletons can work longer hours and move more easily for jobs. Which would make a single society good for the economy. (At least in the short term, until the entitlement systems break because there aren’t enough new taxpayers being born.) There is, however, an alternative economic theory. Last summer demographers Patrick Fagan and Henry Potrykus published a paper examining the effect of nonmarriage on the labor participation rate. Fagan and Potrykus were able to identify a clear statistical effect of marriage on men’s labor participation. What they found is that without the responsibility of families to provide for, unmarried American males have historically tended to drop out of the labor force, exacerbating recessionary tendencies in the economy. We’ll soon find out which view is correct.