Jillson on Demographics

» Texas Tribune: “Lone Star Tarnished” [Excerpt] (Cal Jillson)

Jillson’s conclusion …

Between 1900 and 2000, the Hispanic share of the Texas population increased from less than 5 percent to 32 percent and by 2040 is expected to be 53 percent. Bluntly, the question now is — because Hispanic income and educational attainment are lower than Anglos — does this mean that an increasingly Hispanic Texas must be poorer, less educated, and less productive? The answer, some assure, is no; especially if Hispanics, or Texas, or some combination of the two, act to improve Hispanic educational attainment. Then Hispanic productivity and income will grow, and Texas will continue to prosper. Others worry that demographic change is outrunning improvement in educational attainment. As Texas State Demographer Lloyd Potter said in early 2011, “A [Hispanic] population that isn’t making enough money to fuel our economy, or ends up being a burden on the state — that is not indicative of having a higher quality of life in the future.”

Texas has two choices: It can either try to change these numbers, or it can try to change the social and economic attributes of the coming Hispanic majority. Over the first century and more of the state’s history, Texans and their political leaders took the first path; they tried to shape the racial and ethnic makeup of the state. During the coming decades, Texans and their political leaders will either commit to the second path, changing Hispanic social and economic attributes, or pay an unsustainably heavy price.

If any of this sounds familiar, its probably because former Texas demographer Steve Murdock has been laying the groundwork on this for over a decade. Heather MacDonald at City Journal offers another state’s similarities. Her’s is a more right-leaning ideological spin on the subject, but the diagnostic part isn’t terribly dissimilar.

Murdock has obviously focused a great deal on economic issues, as Jillson does with the Trib excerpt. That’s fine and well – there’s certainly good reason to devote a lot of energy to that aspect alone. But I’m curious to see what, if any, treatment is given to the rise in non-citizen population over the past 15 years and what implication that has for matters economic and beyond.

MacDonald, for her part, notes ” … small, almost entirely Latino, cities in the Los Angeles basin have been politically passive toward local governance.” In checking the three she mentions: Bell, Maywood and La Puente, all but La Puente are over 80% CVAP Hispanic with a CVAP conversion rate of under 50%. La Puente has a higher CVAP conversion rate of 61%. I know that’s my dead horse to beat, but I’ve got to think that maybe, just maybe, the connection between low rates of citizenship are worth some more study. The “civic miscarriages” that MacDonald notes aren’t necessarily unique to heavily Hispanic towns and the shell towns that seem to find innovative ways to maximize corruption with very little population at all are points that somehow go missing from the grander narrative of un-assimilated brown folk. Regardless of whose prescriptive takes you or I may favor, the broader dividing point seems to be who has the burden of assimilation – be it economic, cultural, linguistically, or merely preference in sports teams.

Jillson at least hints that the subject matter might go beyond economic with him and I’m hoping his book does. Those in power don’t typically cede it easily. And we’re obviously already seeing some of the early warning signs of shifting political fortunes. For a more national take on that, Bill King serves up a good tangent on this subject. Jillson’s upcoming book is wildly over-priced for Kindle, but it’s still a discount from the hard copy. And I’ll still download a copy.

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