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Study Finds Regional Patterns in Family Matters

For the first time, the Census Bureau analyzes marriage and birth data on a state-by-state basis.

October 14, 2005|Emma Vaughn | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — When it comes to walking down the aisle, geography really does matter, according to a new Census Bureau report of marriage, fertility and other socioeconomic characteristics.

Men and women in the Northeast marry later and are more likely to live together outside of marriage than people in the Midwest, West or South, the report released Thursday found.

People in the Northeast are also less likely to become parents while still in their teens than those in other parts of the country.

In New York state the median age for a first marriage is 29 for men and 26 or 27 for women -- about two years older than the California and national averages.

The Census Bureau's analysis, the first to examine these data by state, was based on a sample of more than 3 million households from the American Community Survey data from 2000 to 2003.

California's numbers remain close to the national average in most other demographic categories -- a significant exception being birth rates among non-English-speaking and noncitizen mothers.

According to the report, one-fifth of all new mothers in California either did not speak English well or did not speak it at all, and one-third were not U.S. citizens.

"California has a very large Hispanic population giving birth to children," said William H. Frey, a professor at the University of Michigan's Population Studies Center. "The census shows that diversity is much more in the future of California than other states."

California's overall birth rate remained relatively average, however, because in addition to the very high birth rate among immigrants, it has a very low birth rate among native-born residents.

"California has a lot of women who are much more career-oriented, and thus not as focused on creating a family," Frey said.

Harry Pachon, president of the Tomas Rivera Policy Institute at USC, described Southern California as the "Ellis Island of the West."

Pachon said the high birth rate among California's Latinos was a result of immigration.

"The number of foreign-born right now in California is equal to that of the entire state population in 1940," Pachon said. "Immigrants come into California at their prime child-bearing age."

In addition to the language indicator, Peter Morrison, a demographer at the Rand Corp. in Santa Monica, said that racial and socioeconomic demographics in California contributed significantly to unmarried and teenage birth rates.

"There isn't anything extraordinarily new or alarming in these reports," Morrison said.

"What they portray is the continual presence of vulnerable groups in California's, especially Los Angeles', population for whom we haven't figured out a successful way to deliver healthcare."

The census analysis reported the teenage birth rate in California at less than 8%. While in Los Angeles County, the birth rate was about 26% over the four years covered by the study, according to statistics from the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services.

The Census Bureau also found that 15% of all new mothers were not U.S. citizens.

Children born in the United States are automatically granted U.S. citizenship.

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