Study Finds Immigrant Families Are More Stable and Value Traditional Family Values More Than Native-Born Americans

Meimei Li from China holds her son Ryan, 3, during a naturalization ceremony, Tuesday, July 3, 2018, at the New York Public Library. Two hundred immigrants from 50 countries became citizens at the ceremony. Researcher Wendy Wang notes that immigrant parents with children are on average more likely to be in first marriages than are their homegrown neighbors and friends. Mark Lennihan, Associated Press

If marriage means stability for raising kids, as some experts extoll, immigrants may have that advantage over their more numerous native-born Americans.

new analysis of census data published by the Institute for Family Studies on Wednesday finds that close to 1 in 7 people in the United States were born somewhere else and moved here. And study author Wendy Wang notes immigrant parents with children are on average more likely to be in first marriages than are their homegrown neighbors and friends.

“Immigrants are much more likely to have traditional family values, to put marriage ahead of childbearing. They are also more likely to believe couples with children should make every effort to stay married for family stability,” she told the Deseret News.

That so-called “family advantage” can counteract some of the challenges immigrant families may face, she said. “That they are stably married when they have kids is an advantage despite economic disadvantages.”

The advantage to kids is stability, which makes them feel more secure, she said. “We know from a lot of research in the past that kids really need a stable environment and a two-parent family provides that. If mom and dad have different partners, children may be confused and find it hard to handle that situation. It can be a distraction if they want to do well in school.”

Having access to two parents can also mean access to more resources, including finances, time and a broader array of skills.

In the United States, couples who are highly educated and more financially secure are more likely to marry than those with lower incomes and less education. But with immigrants, the opposite is often true. They are often economically disadvantaged and less educated, but still more likely to hold traditional family values around marriage and divorce than are people born here.

Wang found 72% of immigrants with children are in their first marriage, compared to 60% of native-born Americans. She said that for every 1,000 unmarried immigrants ages 18-64, 59 got married, compared to just 39 native-born Americans. Divorce numbers similarly favored immigrant marriages: 13 out of 1,000 got divorced, compared to 20 out of 1,000 in that age group who were born here.

A matter of origin

Wang calls marriage a marker of stability, a trait highest among immigrants from Asia. Immigrants with children from India are the most likely to be in a first marriage, at 94%, followed by Bangladesh, Pakistan, Korea, China and Japan.

Overall, more than 80% of immigrant families include “two stably married parents,” the report said.

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SOURCE: Deseret News, Lois M. Collins