The Right's Attack On Latino Parents

In her turn to kick Latinos where it hurts, Heather Mac Donald, a writer for the Manhattan Institute's City Journal, aimed her stilettos right at the womb of Latinas.

Questioning Latino's commitment to family she wrote in “Hispanic Family Values?”, that Latinos threaten American society because of their high fertility rates and tendencies to live without spouses.

She has all but suggested that the solution to young Latino mothers is to build a wall around women's private parts. (What is it with totalitarians and walls?)

As seems to be her employer's policy, Ms. Heather makes her points by relying on anecdotes and by misrepresenting the data. For example, yes the Latino fertility rate is higher then for nonLatino whites but is that really an assault on family values? Is it really anti-family to prefer 2 children instead of 1? But more importantly, the average age of Latinas is 25 years versus over 35 years for nonLatino whites. It is simple common sense to expect that the younger group of childbearing age women would produce more children than the older group. But Ms. Heather uses the higher birth totals for Latinas as evidence of being anti-family values.

Ms. Heather is essentially arguing that because we have children (which we do tend have) that that's proof that we're falling short on family values. Confused, right?

One thing that Ms Heather convenient leaves out of the discussion is the effect of abortion on childbirths. It's well documented that Latinas are less likely to terminate their pregnancies; which does result in a higher birth rate for Latinas than for Blacks or for nonLatino Whites. But is the preference to carry babies to term evidence of being pro-family of anti-family? By her silence on this issue, and because she clearly favors the lower birthrates of nonLatino White women, you are left to conclude that reducing the birthrate through pregnancy terminations is a sign of healthy family values.

What about Ms Heather's claim that Latinas are spouseless, and that that is contributing to the doom of society? I happen to agree that fatherless children is not the best way to go. But do Latino families suffer from this societal phenomenon more than others? If you skewed the data you can show that there are proportionately more single Latina headed households than nonLatino White female households. But you'd have to do the following in order to get there: 1) compare apples to oranges. That is, compare a group of women which is significantly more economically challenged and younger with a group of women that's older and significantly wealthier. But if one did an apples-to-apples comparison what you'd find is that young Latinas (and most Latinas are young) behave similarly to nonLatina Whites. I'm willing to bet that for young, low-income white women--a generation for whom Brittany Spears is a role model--that steady marriages is not a strong suit.

But here's data that should give Ms Heather some pause. The NYTimes today has a story 51% of Women Are Now Living Without Spouse showing that most women are spouseless--and that that figure has risen sharply over the last 2 decades. Even without accounting for a generational difference (which is a must in order to do a true comparison between the groups), the report shows that about 30 percent of black women are living with a spouse, according to the Census Bureau, compared with about 49 percent of Hispanic women, 55 percent of non-Hispanic white women and more than 60 percent of Asian women.

So even with a much older group of women, women that are more apt to have "old fashioned" values, nonLatino White women and Latinas are statistically tied. What this tells me is that it's very likely that on ahead-to-head age group comparison that Latinas would be found to be more likely than nonLatina Whites to have spouses.

I still am curious what the Manhattan Institute's real agenda is here. As in the Badillo case, Ms Heather distorts the data and uses anecdotes to paint a less flattering picture of Latinos. Heather goes after Latinas and tries to cause damage in an area that many argue does separate the typical Latina from her counterparts, but in a very favorable way, and that's as mothers and spouses.

Badillo goes after disadvantaged Latino parents and argues that they simply don't care about their children's education. He denies his own experience in which as an orphan (and the nephew of his care-taker Puerto Rican aunt in the Bronx) he didn't have the benefit of parents with the time and capacity to be involved. The truth is that he lucked out be attending school in the 1940's when schools will still schools.

It's very sad that the Manhattan Institute appears to be adding to ethnic tensions by generating documents of questionable scholarship, and doing so on behalf of an agenda that appears to be less about illumination and more about putting down Latinos.

It's even sadder that Badillo and Mac Donald are doing the dirty work for the handful of very rich men for whom the Manhattan Insititute is nothing but another instrument of their power.

The Right’s problem with Latinos has really little to do with the issue of legal status. This is purely and simply about a dominant group, in stark and ugliest of ways, to put a new group in its place. It is therefore easy to see why they're especially eager to go after the Latino Parent--the very people most responsible for fueling the rise of the new contenders for power.

Latinos were receptive to some of the Right's ideas, including school choice, pro-family policies, entrepreneurship, national security, relgious freedom, etc. But they are not enamored with blackboot politics, nor are they much interested in the politics of xenophobes, racists and economic elitists.

The only thing left to do is for Latinos to support politicians that support them, and then watch the Right under the leadership of Tom Tancredo--or some such creature, implode in 2008.


  1. Anonymous10/11/2007

    Hi. I'm a Canadian White woman of part-Italian descent, and I have a four-month-old daughter with a man from Nicaragua. We're not legally married, but our daughter has both our last names (in the Spanish tradition!).

    What I think conservatives, and to a lesser extent liberals, fail to do is distinguish between "out of wedlock" pregnancies in adult women and those in teenage girls. Now I don't think adolescent pregnancy is a good thing, not because it's "immoral" but because it can cut short a girl's chance for an education and career.

    So about MacDonald's article, I take issue with her condemnation of so-called "illegitimate" childbearing, but I'm afraid to say that I too don't see teen pregnancy as a good thing. I would also say that while the right condemns adolescent pregnancy (in moralistic overtones, which I don't) it doesn't do anything concrete to try to stop it. For example, many conservatives oppose sex education or freely available birth control (look at the controversy over Gardasil) on the grounds that teen girls would be given the green light to be sexually active.

    So this is my view.

    Emilia Liz (emilia_e_murphy@yahoo.ca)

  2. Anonymous3/24/2009

    I think that nobody is in the posession of truth that's why I inform myself from different sources.
    In this case both, Ms. Heather and who wrote this comment say truth things, I wish it would be no finger pointing, and no accusations. It is good to use judgements not emotions.