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October 2002, Volume 9, Number 10

Income, Education, Politics

The 2000 Census reported that 13 million immigrants arrived in the 1990s, and 73 million US residents moved across state lines between 1990 and 1999. The state with the most newcomers was Nevada--almost 75 percent of residents were born outside the state-while in Louisiana, only 20 percent of residents were born outside the state. Across the US, 60 percent of Americans live in the state where they were born and 54 percent live in the house they occupied in 1995.

Some 296 counties and municipalities in 30 states will issue multilingual ballots for November 2002 elections. Los Angeles County will issue ballots in seven languages-- English, Spanish, Tagalog, Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese and Korean. Multilingual ballots are required in counties and municipalities where either 10,000 people or more than five percent of voting-age citizens do not speak English.

Some 11.7 percent or 33 million US residents had incomes below the poverty line in 2001, up from 11.3 percent in 2000, but down from 14.5 percent in 1991. The poverty line in 2001 was $9,039 for one person, $14,128 for a family of three, and $18,104 for a family of four. The number of poor families increased to 6.8 million or 9.2 percent) in 2001. By race/ethnic group, 7.8 percent of non-Hispanic Whites were poor, 22.7 percent of Blacks, 21.4 percent of Hispanics, 10.2 percent of Asians and Pacific Islanders.

By state, about six percent of residents of New Hampshire, Minnesota, Maryland, Connecticut and Iowa had incomes below the poverty line; about 19 percent of residents of New Mexico, Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana were poor.

Median household income declined 2.2 percent in real terms from its 2000 level to $42,228 in 2001-in 1991, median household income, in current dollars, was $38,183. By race/ethnic group, median household income was $46,305 for whites in 2002, $29,470 for Blacks, $33,565 for Hispanics, and $53,635 for Asian and Pacific Islanders. At $22,851, real per capita income for the US population overall was unchanged between 2000 and 2001.

Education. The Pew Hispanic Center issued a report in September 2002 that concluded that the U.S.-born children of Hispanic immigrants are nearly as likely as whites to enroll in college, but less than half as likely to earn bachelor's degree.

California requires students to pass a High School Exit Exam to receive a diploma. Students begin taking the exam in ninth grade, and have four chances to pass. In spring 2002, some 431,000 tenth graders took the exam, and more than half failed- 70 percent or more of Black and Hispanics failed. An estimated 15 percent of the 5.5 million kindergarten through high school children in California are illegal migrants.

Colorado and Massachusetts will vote on measures in November 2002 that would end or modify bilingual education. Most of the studies of its effects are cross-sectional, looking for the effects of the method of instruction on student achievement in tests, etc. within one or two years of the teaching. One effort to approximate a longitudinal study-the High School and Beyond study involving 50,000 students, including 2,000 Hispanics in 1982, 1984, 1986 and 1992- concluded that English learners who went through bilingual programs earned less a decade later than those who went through programs that did not emphasize mother-language support.

Economist Joseph Guzman in the journal Education Next concluded that Hispanics who went through bilingual programs were less likely to have gone to college, and earned $1,000 less, than those who attended English as a Second Language classes. Those who could speak Spanish and English went further in college and earned more than those who could speak only English. The High School and Beyond authors concluded that bilingualism was good, but not necessarily bilingual education.

About eight percent of limited-English students in California were "redesignated" as fluent in English in 2001; test scores for limited-English students rose, but the scores of other students rose faster, so the gap widened. Each of California's 1,000 school districts sets its own redesignation criteria.

At UC Berkeley, 65 percent of incoming freshmen in Fall 2002 have at least one foreign-born parent; about 47 percent of California teens have at least one foreign-born parent. About 44 percent of the Fall 2002 freshman class at UC Berkeley was Asian.

There were 35 million Hispanics in 2000, and a projected 70 million in 2020, which would give the US the second largest Hispanic population in the world, after Mexico.

Politics. The Denver Post profiled an unauthorized 18-year old honors student August 11, 2002 who said he could not afford to attend the University of Colorado because, as an unauthorized foreigner, he had to pay out-of-state tuition of $7,000 a semester. He graduated from Colorado schools, and had lived in the state six years. The student was unusual because he admitted to being unauthorized; the Post reported that, if students graduated from Colorado schools and said they were US citizens, their claims of US citizenship were not checked.

Representative Tom Tancredo (R-CO), chair of the 65-member Congressional Immigration Reform Caucus, asserted that the student was flaunting his unauthorized status, and asked the INS to investigate him and his family. The Post then reported that two unauthorized foreigners said they worked on a remodeling project at Tancredo's house; the contractor denied hiring unauthorized foreign workers. There was widespread discussion of Tancredo's call for the deportation of the student, and the apparent employment of unauthorized workers at his house.

Tancredo originally pledged to stay in Congress for only three terms, but said in 2002 that he would seek to return for a fourth term in 2004 to fight illegal immigration. He said: "I believe with all my heart that massive immigration through porous borders combined with the corrosive effect of radical multiculturalism will not only determine what kind of nation we will be (united or balkanized), it will determine if, indeed, we will be a nation at all."

Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) has given up on trying to win approval of 245(i) in 2002 . It would have allowed illegal immigrants whose immigration visas become available to receive their visas from the INS in the United States after paying a $1,000 fine rather than returning home to collect the visa from the US consulate.

Welfare. The 1996 welfare law must be reauthorized, or the federal government will be unable to pay the states $16.5 billion a year for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. Since 1996, the number of people on welfare has dropped more than half, to 5.3 million, and the proportion of children in poverty has declined to the lowest level in more than 20 years.

Most assessments of welfare reform have been positive, with the number of people in poverty, and the number of children in poverty, going down as ex-recipients find jobs. However, many ex-recipients have entered the ranks of the working poor, as illustrated by the fact that the number of US residents without health insurance rose to 41.2 million in 2001, up 1.4 million over 2000. Most US residents, 63 percent in 2001, receive health insurance via their employers, and the small and low-wage employers likely to hire ex-recipients often do not provide health insurance. Medicaid, the federal-state program for the poor, covered 31.6 million people in 2001.

One issue holding up a new welfare reform law is subsidized child care. Taxpayers now provide $10 billion a year to subsidize child care so that mothers can work. Child-care typically costs $4,000 to $10,000 a year, making it one of the most expensive benefits provided to poor families so that they can work.

Driver's Licenses. California will not be granting driver's licenses to unauthorized foreigners. Governor Gray Davis vetoed a bill that would have allowed unauthorized foreigners who underwent criminal background checks, were applying for legal residency and could prove they were employed and had lived in California for at least 15 months in the last three years. Davis said: "the tragedy of September 11 made it abundantly clear that the driver's license is more than just a license to drive; it is one of the primary documents we use to identify ourselves."

Nancy Vogel and Dan Morain, "No Licenses for Illegal Immigrants," Los Angeles Times, October 1, 2002. Bill McAllister and Mike Soraghan, "Tancredo reneges on term vow," Denver Post, September 26, 2002. Eric Hubler, "Bilingual research lacks definitive study," Denver Post, September 25, 2002.