The second of two articles. The first is here.
Remember Tiger Mother? Amy Chua’s 2011 power-parenting manifesto drew massive attention to the academic and other success stories of Asian immigrants in America and shook up native-born American parents for a while.
But academic success isn’t everything, and a new report from the Institute for Family Studies suggests that immigrants from Asia are making a more fundamental contribution to American society. They are largely responsible for giving progressive California one of the more traditional family profiles in the nation.
IFS scholars Wendy Wang and W. Bradford Wilcox have found that 70 percent of foreign-born Californian parents are in intact marriages compared with 67 percent of all Californian parents and 63 percent of all American parents.
Asian immigrants, however, are the standouts, with over 80 percent of those with children in an intact marriage. Only 5 percent of those with young children were never married. These figures reflect personal values and culture as well as education and income.
In the California Family Survey three-quarters of them said it was very important to them to marry before having children (compared with 62% of whites, 66% of blacks, and 59% of Hispanics), and 52% agreed that couples with children should stay married even if they are unhappy, rather than divorce (compared with 44% of whites and 42% of Hispanics).
Yet, like the Californian born elite, they are anxious to endorse “whatever” for the rest of society. Asians are almost as likely as other groups to say that family diversity should be celebrated (79% of Asians, 82% of whites and 73% of blacks).
Although they show higher levels of support for childbearing outside of marriage, Hispanics are the least likely (67%) to agree that non-traditional families should be celebrated. (Perhaps they distinguish between single or cohabiting parents and families formed by same-sex couples.)
“Among parents in California, Hispanic parents are less likely than Asian parents (as well as white parents) to be in intact marriages, and they are more likely to have never been married. About 1 in 5 Hispanic parents in California (22%) have never been married, a share that is substantially higher than it is among white parents (9%), though it is quite a bit lower than among black parents in California (37%).”
First generation factor
It makes a difference if you were actually born in another country: “Being a first generation immigrant is itself linked to greater family stability,” the family scholars found.
“For example, among Asian parents in California, those who were ﬁrst-generation immigrants are more likely to be in intact families than those who were born in the U.S. (86% vs. 76%).”
Though the Asian advantage is partly related to high levels of education compared with other groups, both main immigrant groups have a more family oriented culture, which in many cases is supported by religious beliefs, judging by the greater proportion of foreign-born California parents who attend religious services regularly (47% vs. 41% for native Californians).
After controlling for a range of demographic and cultural factors Wang and Wilcox find that Asian parents are about twice as likely as whites to be in intact families, and the odds of immigrants being in such families are 50% higher than among non-immigrant families.
The scholars do not make any causal claims but it seems obvious that immigrant family values and virtues make an important contribution to the family stability that is vital not only to individual wellbeing but to society at large.
Tiger moms who drive their kids to ever higher achievements are one expression of Asian family values, but more fundamental, it seems, is Asian immigrants’ commitment to marriage as the foundation of family life, and the virtues which keep them married regardless of personal satisfaction. We can only hope they pass these family values on to their children.
Carolyn Moynihan is deputy editor of MercatorNet.